The Viacommunity Spirit Emerges from the Eye of the Storm

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

As Hurricane Maria intensified to a Category 5 storm and set a bullseye on Puerto Rico last September, Victor Caro knew there was only one place he could go: directly into the eye of the storm.

Though he lived in Connecticut, both Caro and his wife had grown up in Puerto Rico. Most of his family still lived there, including his 90-year-old grandmother. The island’s storm supplies had been wiped out when Hurricane Irma had skirted the island earlier that month. So Caro would fly down with bags stuffed full of water purification supplies, batteries, emergency radios, and portable stoves. The day before the storm hit, he boarded a nearly empty San Juan-bound plane out of JFK airport.

Victor Caro – Headshots at Viacom, New York City, NY

He bunkered down in the family’s concrete house in Carolina with his grandmother, aunt and cousin. The wind and rain started that first night and continued all the next day. The windows shook, but the house held.

When the family finally emerged, it was to a wrecked world: electricity knocked out island-wide, cellphone service rare and patchy, clean water no longer running from taps. Land lines worked for three days and then stopped. The authorities, where they showed up at all, were slow to arrive and ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the catastrophe.

Caro stayed for a week, clearing debris, checking on friends and family, and distributing what supplies he could. The breeze quit and the family roasted in their uncooled home. Sleep became difficult. At night, they listened to WAPA radio as officials relayed information and, in one instance, desperate hospital staff delivered frantic pleas for help as babies wailed in the background.

When Caro finally boarded a charter plane back to the mainland, the immensity of the destruction he had witnessed – and the inadequacy of the official emergency response – overwhelmed him.

“I’d never felt survivor’s remorse,” Caro said. “But I just felt awful. I don’t think I’d cried in 10 years, and I just bawled that day. For weeks, being at home with my family, watching cable, ordering food, air conditioning, I felt guilty enjoying those things. And that’s part of what motivated me to get out and help the people who were screwed the most.”

Sending angels to the rescue

Actually doing something was more difficult. Bureaucratic and logistical obstacles make moving goods to Puerto Rico arduous under normal circumstances. Arcane shipping regulations meant that the only realistic relief option was to fly supplies in, an expensive and logistically exasperating undertaking.

Enter Warrior Angels Rescue, an extraordinary coalition of concerned citizens on the U.S. mainland and on Puerto Rico, headed by Valerie Edmondson Bolaños. The organization materialized out of Maria’s fumes to deliver supplies to the island and evacuate those whose medical issues made it imperative that they leave.

Over many weeks following the storm, Caro and his wife worked with Warrior Angels Rescue (which is part of the Puerto Rico Relief Alliance), to stitch together a massive relief effort. They gathered 30,000 pounds of medical supplies and donated cargo, along with the $70,000 required to fly them to Puerto Rico. When the plane returned to the mainland, it carried nearly 150 medically fragile passengers – expectant mothers, babies, the elderly, cancer patients.

Caro worked as a sort of fixer, a go-between who had the connections both on the mainland and the island to make the critical link between needs and resources for El Barrio Caimital Bajo y Alto in the Puerto Rican town of Guayama, a town that was in great need even before Maria struck. During the holiday season, their delivery arrived with 3,000 pounds of food, water, toys, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, toiletries, and more to help 46 families in great need.

The sheer scale of organizing one plane trip was incredible: moving truckloads of water, food, clothing and toys from garages and schools – even, at one point, Caro’s daughter’s kung fu dojo – in the Northeast to and through Florida; raising funds for and coordinating the charter flight to Puerto Rico; moving these materials over a mountainous island with a decimated road network; identifying those most in need of both the supplies and a ride off the island; and ensuring that medical help and transportation to a safe place awaited those who evacuated to the mainland.

Clockwise from left: holiday gifts awaiting delivery; the chartered airplane that delivered toys from the mainland and evacuated vulnerable residents; coordinating the operation aboard the plane; unloading the supplies in Guayama. Photos courtesy of Victor Caro.

His colleagues noticed. When Viacommunity – the company’s social responsibility initiative – put out a companywide call for “exemplary employees who represent Viacom’s sense of social responsibility and make a powerful impact on their communities,” for its annual Viacommunity Award late last year, multiple employees nominated Caro for the honor.

“Every free second he has is spent working with anyone that will listen to help those in need in Puerto Rico,” one said in their nomination.

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Viacom to Support Courageous Youth Activists Who Have Had Enough of Gun Violence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

February 27, 2018 – Parkland, Florida, United States: Volunteers hang banners, including this one reading “Stay strong, Stoneman Douglas, we’re with you,” around the perimeter of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school to welcome back students who returned to school on Feb. 28, two weeks after the mass shooting that killed 17 students and staff. (Susan Stocker/SF Sun Sentinel/Polaris)

In the weeks since a gunman claimed 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, courageous young people have marched and raised their voices to demand action on gun violence in the United States.

Viacom and its brands have a long history of supporting young people’s movements around the world, and today the company is extending that tradition by leveraging its substantial multi-platform footprint to support these extraordinary individuals and amplify the reach and impact of their activism.

This series of efforts across MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Comedy Central, TV Land, CMT and other properties will include partnerships with a coalition of organizations and students that are working to make America’s schools safer and reduce gun violence.

In addition, Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of Viacom’s Board, is personally championing the work of the student activists, contributing time and resources, including a $500,000 donation, to the March For Our Lives movement.

“This generation continues to be the driving force for change,” said Viacom Executive Vice President of Global Inclusion Marva Smalls. “With more than 17 young people dying from gun violence every single day, unfortunately no community is safe. We believe it’s critical to support the inspiring efforts of our youth, who are literally fighting for their lives. Viacom also has a responsibility to our audiences to do everything we can to elevate the many brave and bold activists to help them extend the reach and impact of their voices in this important movement.”

Here’s a sampling of the initiatives that Viacom brands have planned for the weeks ahead:

A pause to remember the victims

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14, all Viacom networks and platforms will suspend regularly scheduled programming for 17 minutes. This pause will coincide with the National School Walkout, a tribute to the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting, and to all young victims of gun violence. Students across the country will take over MTV’s social media accounts during the walkout.

The power of Viacom’s united brands support a march on Washington

Viacom’s brands will drive awareness of March For Our Lives through extensive on-air and digital coverage, as well as on-the-ground initiatives, leading up to the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. on March 24. MTV and Comedy Central will change the color of their logos to orange – in support of gun violence awareness – for the 10 days leading up to the event. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah plans to continue its ongoing coverage of the growing anti-gun violence movement in the country. So will The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper, which will build on its recent interviews with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as well as educators and former military officials on arming teachers, and the 2017 special he produced, Jordan Klepper Solves Guns. Paramount Network will capture powerful first-person accounts for its pro-social initiative. Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards, which airs that night, will acknowledge the march for its audience of millions.

Supporting efforts to reduce gun violence

Viacom networks have begun an array of ongoing initiatives aimed at curbing gun violence over the long term. For example, MTV has set up a website where people can learn how to take further action, BET will award DISARM pop-up grants to youth activists with innovative ideas about addressing gun violence and mental health issues, and CMT will work with the country music industry on its efforts to support gun safety.

Joining gun safety leaders to drive change

Viacom is partnering with organizations across the spectrum to develop gun safety-related projects for Viacommunity Day, Viacom’s annual day of community service, on April 20.

Get Schooled expands its curriculum

Get Schooled, an organization founded through a partnership between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will expand its efforts to educate young people on the actions they can take to participate in the national discussion.

*On average, 19.4 young people aged 24 and under die by gun violence every day. Source – Everytown analysis: CDC Fatal Injury Reports (WISQARS), data for 2012-2016.

Nickelodeon SlimeFest Continues to Break Into Experiential Entertainment, And You’re Going to Love It

Viacom’s live event business is booming. Just this past year, the company has launched Comedy Central’s Clusterfest, a first-of-its-kind music and comedy hybrid festival; Bellator MMA came to New York’s Madison Square Garden; and Nickelodeon brought Bikini Bottom to Broadway via the smash hit SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical.

Now, Nickelodeon will add to this growing constellation of live experiences with a two-day immersive music festival called…you guessed it…NickelodeonSlimeFest.

Nickelodeon debuted this kid-friendly festival in Australia, and has since slimed fans around the globe with events in South Africa, Italy, the UK and Spain. Now, the green goo is coming to the U.S., emphasizing the power and reach of Viacom’s global properties. It makes sense: outstanding events are universally appreciated, and slime is slime regardless of what language you speak.

Courtesy of Nickelodeon and Live Nation

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217 Years to Women’s Equality? Not on Viacom’s Watch

The World Economic Forum is concerned that, if nothing changes, full global gender parity is likely 217 years away.

Viacom thinks that we should start closing that gap today.

Today, March 8, is a good day for it: it’s International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual celebration of change-makers fighting for gender equality. Viacom, along with other media companies, nonprofit organizations, charities, politicians, entrepreneurs and activists around the globe, will celebrate women in a tradition dating back to the suffrage movements of the early 20th century.

Today, Viacom brands, talent and executives will spread a message of equality and social activism through the company’s global platforms, through a series of fan and employee events, and through support for larger movements lending a megaphone to women’s collective voice.

Here’s the breakdown on how Viacom will promote International Women’s Day:

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Viacom’s #SeeHer PSAs Portray Positive Female Role Models In Media

On Feb. 1, Viacom launched the first in a year-long series of PSAs across MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, CMT, TV Land and Nickelodeon. These vignettes feature inspiring, diverse women role models, both real and fictional.

Take a look at the first vignette, a feature film trailer highlighting a female engineer using her technological dexterity to prevent a world crisis. The vignette ends with that young girl sitting in science class, daydreaming about these future heroics.

“Portraying a strong female character isn’t rocket science,” announces the narrator.

This spot is part of the Association of National Advertisers’ ongoing #SeeHer initiative, of which Viacom is a leading partner. The goal is to accurately portray women and girls in media and advertising by 2020 (100 years after women’s suffrage passed in the United States).

Using the tagline “If you see her, you can be her,” the #SeeHer movement employs two of the world’s most pervasive industries – advertising and media – to illustrate the extraordinary things that women are doing every day.

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Comedian Tiffany Haddish to Host the 2018 MTV Movie & TV Awards

The MTV Movie & TV Awards continue to forge a path of diversity, inclusion and all-around awesomeness. Last year, the network tentpole revamped its award parameters, doing away with gendered categories and doling out buckets of golden popcorn to those who helped produce the best of film, television and digital media.

This year, Girls Trip actress Tiffany Haddish will host the ceremony.

Haddish is pumped, to say the least. The star shared a video with her 1.8 million Instagram followers to announce the news. “It’s gonna be off the chain,” said Haddish. “Because you know why? I’m hosting! And you know what that means ― it’s gonna be hilarious.”

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Women’s Viewership Surges as Paramount Network Wraps Stellar First Ratings Month

Behind a premium content strategy anchored in original scripted series such as Waco and hit unscripted programs inherited from Spike, Paramount Network wrapped up its first month with strong ratings driven partly by surging female viewership. Ratings for the net checked in with a 50 percent primetime leap over its previous quarter (as Spike) in the key 18-49 demo.

Especially notable was the soaring viewership among women 18-49: an overall jump of 44 percent punctuated by a 274 percent eruption around the six-part Waco miniseries.

As Waco wraps up, Paramount Network continues to roll out its long-term slate of premium content, including the forthcoming Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner.

Watch the teaser:

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Viacom Acquires VidCon, Boosting Live Event and Digital Businesses

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In a move that will accelerate its participation and investment in next-generation platforms and expand its focus on live events, Viacom has acquired VidCon, host of the world’s largest multi-day conference for the global online community.

VidCon – which will remain a stand-alone entity and retain its senior leadership team – will be able to considerably expand its global reach with the start-up spirit that has allowed it to flourish.

“VidCon has become the foremost gathering place for the passionate online video community, and the access to talent, experts and education that VidCon provides for attendees is unparalleled,” said Jason Jordan, Viacom executive vice president of Multiplatform Strategy and Operations. “We’re excited to partner with the team to help achieve their vision and expand VidCon’s reach around the world while maintaining the grassroots energy and authenticity that makes the experience so unique and special to so many.”

Moving Viacom to the center of the online video landscape

The announcement follows Viacom’s November launch of Viacom Digital Studios under President Kelly Day and last month’s acquisition of influence marketing firm WHOSAY, underscoring the company’s push onto the next-generation digital platforms at the center of our fans’ lives.

Even as VidCon expands the reach of its eponymous events, the company’s capabilities will both complement and bolster Viacom’s ongoing digital efforts.

“We’re huge fans of the VidCon team, and we share the same enthusiasm for the power of connecting talented creators with their incredible fan communities,” said Day. “This team has built an unprecedented live experience that brings together the global online video community in celebration of the people and platforms shaping the future of content, and we’re excited to join forces as we look to expand our slate of original digital programming and partnerships.”

Boosting Viacom’s growing live event portfolio

Last year, Viacom launched Comedy Central’s inaugural ClusterFest, which attracted 40,000 fans and rave reviews. The BET Experience brought in 165,000 fans. Paramount Network’s Bellator MMA visited New York’s Madison Square Garden for the first time.

This was all part of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s long-term strategy to considerably increase the number, reach and impact of live events in the company’s portfolio. VidCon fits perfectly within those plans.

With more than 30,000 attendees and 80-plus sponsors (including, for many years, Viacom), at its flagship Anaheim event, VidCon has become the largest multi-day conference of its kind and cemented itself as the premier event for the worldwide online video community. And while VidCon has already carried this momentum into events in Amsterdam and Melbourne, Viacom’s global network of platforms and properties give it the resources to supercharge that reach both internationally and within the United States.

“I couldn’t imagine a better partner to help VidCon continue its mission of democratizing the creative economy around the world,” said Jim Louderback, CEO of VidCon. “Viacom’s expansive reach across all of our key constituents will give us the opportunity to expand our global footprint more rapidly. We’re also looking forward to their expertise in pioneering and executing live fan-first events – from the Video Music Awards and BET Experience to Comedy Central’s ClusterFest – as we continue to make VidCon a life-changing experience for those that create and love online video.”

VidCon will remain a standalone subsidiary and voice for democratizing the creative economy

From its offices in Missoula, Montana, Louderback and co-founder Hank Green lead a 20-person team that has established an important meeting place, safe space, and community-driven destination for online video creators and their fans. They have long partnered closely with United Talent Agency, who has pushed global sponsorship sales to maximize the organization’s visibility and impact.

None of this will change (though Louderback will report to Viacom’s Day and Jordan) – Viacom will simply provide more resources and a bigger microphone to allow VidCon to continue nurturing the online video community and ecosystem.

“I’m so happy that we found such a strong, successful, and progressive company to give our team the stability and resources needed to make bold moves at home and grow what we’re doing internationally,” said Green. “Viacom has decades of expertise creating incredible live events for fans, and we are building something truly unique by blending that with our team’s deep care and passion for the community and culture of online video. I’m so excited to be part of this team and to continue our work connecting people, providing amazing experiences and helping creators create.”

Viacom Takes Six NAACP Image Awards Across Four Properties

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

With programming that ranged from definitive biopics to animation to riotous unscripted and scripted programming, Viacom scooped up six NAACP Image Awards at this year’s ceremony honoring outstanding performances by people of color.

BET earned a pair of honors for its standout biopic The New Edition Story, while Comedy Central’s animated Legend of Chamberlain Heights took home one statuette. Viacom’s newest network – Paramount Network – brought in two more wins with its beloved Lip Sync Battle, while the Paramount Television-produced 13 Reasons Why added one more.

Take a look at the diverse Viacom properties that impressed this year’s selection committee.

BETThe New Edition Story

  • Outstanding Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special
  • Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie or Special – Abdul Williams, Night 2

When The New Edition Story landed last January, it hit as BET’s most-watched premiere in five years, racking up more than 4 million viewers per episode and dominating the social media conversation. Critics loved it.

COMEDY CENTRALLegends of Chamberlain Heights

  • Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance – Tiffany Haddish

Comedy Central’s ribald animated portrait of three benchwarming hoops wannabees returned for a second season in June. Turns out the trio can’t hit the starting lineup in the awards circuit either: Tiffany Haddish, who plays Cindy on the series, out-hustled the guys to win this honor for the year’s best voice-over. Haddish also earned the Outstanding Supporting Acrtress in a Motion Picture honor for her role as Dina in Universal Picture’s Girls Trip.

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There’s No Safe Space in Paramount Network’s Heathers Reboot

Paramount Network’s Heathers is a modern take on the 80s cult classic, with sardonic, NSFW dialogue, and fierce fashion (rather than shoulder pads, this squad rocks faux fur and statement chokers).

And this time, the elite Heathers are not three white girls with long hair and thin legs rocking color coordinated twin sets. Heather M. is black, Heath is gender-fluid and their vicious ringleader Heather C. is a plus-sized, body-positive badass.

Watch the trailer:

Meet the Heathers on Instagram:

Tectonic. #Heathers #ParamountNetwork

A post shared by Heathers (@heathers) on

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