For One Tech Intern, Viacom’s Experience Room Stands Out

The psychedelic animated VR world of “Chocolate,” an experience created for the song of the same name by San Francisco based musician Giraffage. Created by 3D animator Tyler Hurd and executive produced by Viacom NEXT.

Viacom’s global headquarters at 1515 Broadway shoots 53 floors out of the endless hustle of Times Square. Even amid all this frenetic energy, though, one part of the building really stood out to me as a Media and Technology Services (MTS) Finance intern: the Experience Room.

Situated amid the MTS teams on the 11th floor, the room hosts an ever-updated showcase of the new and emerging technologies that Viacom is exploring, developing, and strategizing to promote MTV, Nickelodeon and other brands. The room doubles as an incubator for Viacom engineers developing products and a fun, engaging place for other employees to experience them.

The room feels futuristic – it is outfitted with integrated smart assistance and voice-activated lighting. One of the gadgets I found particularly fascinating was a voice-activated smart wall mirror, which provides weather information, displays the time, takes notes, and even compliments you.

A section of the room is a mini-museum, outfitted with a chronologically arranged line of devices ranging from a flip phone to Microsoft’s “Hololens” – a headpiece that projects holographic images.

Viacom engineers rotate into the room to work on new technologies, join an existing project, or develop new ideas using the room’s resources. One rotating engineer is at work on a SpongeBob SquarePants robot. The prototype can move around and interact with kids. The engineer would like to equip it with enough information that it can be used as a source of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for children.

The engineering team is also working on a smart photo booth that can transform its background, factoring in different color combinations and even the type of clothes people are wearing.

The highlight of my time in this space was a Virtual Reality (VR) game where I smashed things to collect points in a ring within a simulated Experience Room. I also immersed myself within the first ever VR music album with Viacom’s The Melody of Dust, which had such an incredible level of optimization and features embedded within it that I felt as if I were physically in a different world altogether.

The Experience Room now has open hours where employees experience what the team is working on: Wednesdays from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. I hope you’ll visit the 11th floor to enjoy this amazing space and draw inspiration from the way that Viacom is developing its present and shaping its future.

The 24th Annual MTV EMA Awards Were Simply EM-Azing

With delightful decadence, audience engagement, and celeb camaraderie, the 24th annual EMA Awards, from London’s Wembley Arena, were a spectacle not to be missed. For those who didn’t catch the show, here are some highlights:

EMA Host Rita Ora was full of surprises

Between her singing and acting ventures, fashion collaborations with Adidas and Calvin Klein, TV coaching appearances on The X Factor and The Voice UK, as well as a hosting gig for VH1’s revamped season of America’s Next Top Model last year, Rita Ora is a renaissance woman—and a busy one at that. This was clear as she stepped out on the red carpet in a bathrobe and towel. Well, a diamond necklace, too.

From the sofa, to the car, to the @mtvema red carpet ❣

A post shared by Rita Ora (@ritaora) on

But the multi-talented host rolled through 12 costume changes that night, from hotel-party-chic to 90s exercise gear to a slew of technicolor wigs and, inexplicably, a floor-length necklace in the shape of a garden fork. Her hosting duties included a pair of performances—her No. 1 hit, Your Song, followed by crowd-favorite Anywhere.

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Erykah Badu Returns as 2017 Soul Train Awards Honor Industry Legends and Newcomers

Solange Knowles and Bruno Mars have soul. At least, BET thinks so.

The network has announced nominations for the BET Presents: 2017 Soul Train Awards, an annual ceremony that recognizes the best in soul, R&B and hip-hop music, honing in on artists from the 1970s—or newcomers whose music is evocative of the disco era.

So far, Solange is leading with seven nominations, including video of the year and song of the year for her hit single, Cranes in the Sky.

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CMT Artists of the Year Clocks Record Ratings With Moving Disaster Tribute

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Honorees Chris Stapleton, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan speak onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

In a powerful display of unity and emotion honoring the victims of manmade and natural disasters across the United States, CMT’s Artists of the Year event aired to record ratings on Wednesday night, skyrocketing 61 percentage points over 2016 numbers while drawing more than 1.1 million fans. The program also ranked as the most social entertainment program in primetime on cable, while #CMTAOTY trended nationally on Twitter.

CMT recast the event – typically a celebration of the year’s premiere country artists – into a “night of hope and healing” following a savage mass shooting that killed 58 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival earlier this month, as well as a trio of hurricanes and a plague of wildfires that have disrupted life throughout much of the nation.

“We felt a commitment to our fans to transform the event into a night where we honor human resilience through music, and hopefully in the process lift the spirits of our fans,” said CMT General Manager Frank Tanki. “We’re thrilled that the special connected with so many people, especially those who’ve been impacted by the recent tragedies.”

The show’s ratings success hits as CMT is riding a 10-month ratings streak, with sustained year-over-year growth over that period among key demographics.

Here are a few highlights from the show, which aired from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Artists of the Year deliver message of unity and resilience

When the gunfire erupted over the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1, country music star Jason Aldean onstage. His audience was the killer’s target. As Aldean rushed to cover, 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the unending barrage of bullets.

To open the show on Wednesday night, Aldean appeared alongside the other Artists of the Year: Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. The performers – whom the network had selected in September, prior to the format change – had all agreed to forego formal awards and focus on victims of the recent tragedies. They opened with a message acknowledging the power and importance of music, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength and courage of first responders and fans:

The show resonated especially powerfully in Las Vegas, where ratings increased an astronomical 1,877 percentage points over last year.

Country stars deliver a powerful genre crossover with a tribute to Tom Petty

CMT has a bold tradition of fusing artists (pop legends The Backstreet Boys performed country sensation Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y. during the show), and one of the night’s most uplifting moments came on just such a crossover. Aldean, Urban, Stapleton and country mainstays Little Big Town united on stage for a tribute to the late Tom Petty, belting out a stirring ensemble cover of the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down.

One of Petty’s most famous songs, the defiant anthem served as an appropriate tribute to the music legend while doubling as an apt rebuke to the fear and retreat that killers like the Las Vegas mass murderer hope to inspire:

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Viacom and One Africa Music Fest Host Employee Meet and Greet With Afrobeat Stars

Afrobeat exploded out of a combination of West African musical styles in the 1970s. From its original sounds exemplified by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti to the Nigerian, Ghanaian and South African artists blowing up the hottest radio stations and nightclubs across the U.S., Europe and Africa today, the Afrobeat movement is alive, well, and on fire!

The BEAT, Viacom’s black employee resource group, wanted to share the Afrobeat movement with its members and the rest of the Viacom family. On the eve of the second One Africa Music Fest in New York City, the BEAT hosted an Afrobeat listening session and meet and greet with two of Nigeria’s biggest Afrobeat artists.

(L to R) Praiz, Ezinne Kwubiri, Flavour Photo by: Oluwaseye

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Rita Ora Returns to Hometown London to Host the 2017 MTV EMA Awards

The 24th annual MTV EMA Awards will be an evening of world-class performances from some of the biggest music acts on the planet. For the first time since 1996, the festivities take place in London, home to iconic bands such as Oasis and the Spice Girls, as well as this year’s host: global superstar Rita Ora.

Ora’s EMA resume is robust. She opened the ceremony in 2012 with a performance of her hit song R.I.P.,  presented Eminem with his Best Hip Hop Award in 2013, and is an eight-time EMA award nominee.

The model, singer and dancer’s career began with a chart-topping debut album, Ora. She’s collaborated with stars like Charli XCX and Iggy Azalea for a number of hits, and was most recently a judge on The X Factor and the host of VH1’s America’s Next Top Model.

“Rita is a multi-talented star who’s been an MTV core artist for over half of a decade,” said Viacom International Head of Music and Talent Bruce Gillmer in a press release. “She’s the perfect hometown hero to lead the 2017 MTV EMAs, which promises to be the year’s ultimate global music celebration.”

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Eminem Drops Exclamation Point on Thrilling BET Hip Hop Awards

The BET Hip Hop Awards splashed down to the Sunshine State for its 2017 ceremony, taking advantage of South Florida’s tropical vibes, frenetic energy and vibrant music scene to honor hip-hop’s hustle. The show attracted a who’s who of hip-hop royalty, including Gucci Mane, Luke Campbell, Playboi Carti and Flo Rida, while transforming Miami’s Jackie Gleason Theater into a trendy South Beach nightclub with bursts of pyrotechnics, fog, and flashing lights.

Migos performs “Too Hotty” at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Hosted by Miami native and modern renaissance man DJ Khaled, the Hip-Hop Awards paid homage to both industry veterans like Eminem (who went viral with a politically-charged freestyle) and spunky newcomers like Hustler of the Year, Cardi B.

Check out these highlights from the hottest night in hip-hop:

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These Moments From the 2017 VMAs Are Guaranteed to Orbit the MTV Galaxy for Years to Come

Since 1984, some of pop culture’s most revered moments, quotes and gestures originated at the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). Britney Spears’ sweeping, serpentine performance of I’m a Slave for You. Lady Gaga’s meat dress. Kanye West’s presidential bid. Miley Cyrus and the twerk heard ‘round the world. Michael Jackson’s moon-walking medleys. Hammer Time. Lil’ Kim, Diana Ross and one purple jumpsuit…these are images embedded in our collective social conscious, through memories and endless GIFs on our Twitter feeds.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

The 2017 VMAs, held at The Forum in Los Angeles in August, certainly spawned plenty of extraordinary moments.

Here were a few of my favorites:

Lorde’s silent, avant-garde performance of Homemade Dynamite

The pop star flounced around stage like a ballerina from Mars, which isn’t too unusual for the VMAs. Not singing (or even lip-synching) is, however, a bit unusual.

Courtesy of GIPHY.

Lorde tweeted a response to confused fans and reporters who covered the event, explaining how she had the flu and was on an IV drip just days before the ceremony.

I still think her modern, possibly interpretive dancing was sick (pun intended).

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MTV Rides Programming Resurgence to First Summer Ratings Increase in Six Years

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fueled by a programming renaissance, MTV scored its first summer ratings increase in six years for the three months ending August 31.

That’s cause for celebration:

via GIPHY

The surge follows the steady re-introduction of several legacy MTV programs that have been recalibrated to appeal to the social-, mobile- and digital-oriented youth of today: My Super Sweet 16, Unplugged and, on Snapchat, Cribs and Beach House. And, coming soon: the hugely anticipated returns of early aughts mainstay TRL.

(Take a look at the Shawn Mendes performance that relit Unplugged – you’re not seeing things – there are no cell phones in the audience; the producers prohibited fans from bringing them into the theater, so they could simply enjoy the concert, 1990s style):

The ratings resurgence has not been entirely tethered to nostalgia, however, as a rejiggering of the network’s The Challenge and the launch of unscripted original Siesta Key (below) also fueled large audiences.

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Viacom Brands Unite for Hurricane Relief Telethon On September 12

After Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents reeling from one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history, CMT teamed up with other broadcast networks to air a benefit telethon on Sept. 12.

Since then, Hurricane Irma decimated entire islands in the Caribbean and left millions of Florida residents without power. The affected areas are still in “rescue mode” according to The New York Times, meaning we don’t yet know the full extent of damage caused by this colossal storm, but experts agree it will be extensive.

Now, the telethon has expanded to aid the victims of Hurricane Irma. Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Relief also expanded its broadcast scope. Viacom networks MTV and BET will now join CMT in airing the special.

“Silence is overrated,” tweeted CMT. “Sometimes, music is the only thing that can get your mind off everything else.”

The hour-long special aims to do just that—use music as a way to bring peace of mind to those affected by the hurricane. And with BET, MTV and other broadcast networks now airing the event, Hand in Hand can reach as many homes as possible. This means more opportunity for people to make personal donations to assist hurricane victims. The telethon is predicted to be one of the largest benefit concerts in history.

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