Viacom’s Q3 2018 Earnings Demonstrate Turnaround, Evolution Into Global Multi-Platform Entertainment Company

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom released its third quarter 2018 financial results today, articulating progress on its turnaround and detailing Viacom’s evolution beyond its linear roots and into a global multiplatform company.

“Viacom produced another quarter of strong progress, with clear evidence that our turnaround is delivering results and that our evolution into a truly global, multiplatform, brand- and IP-driven entertainment company is well underway,” said Viacom President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish.

Viacom’s core media networks business continues to increase share, Paramount Pictures is surging and profitable, domestic affiliate revenues are up sequentially, and new initiatives are helping to build ad sales strength. Even as these traditional business drivers stabilize, Viacom continues to transform itself by feeding booming digital consumption, growing its Advanced Marketing Solutions (AMS) portfolio, increasing its number of live events, and establishing a burgeoning cross-portfolio studio model that opens significant opportunities for third-party production.

A RESURGENT BUSINESS

Over the past several quarters, Viacom has revitalized four core elements of its business – Paramount Pictures, media networks’ audience share, ad sales, and its domestic affiliate business – while continuing to strengthen its balance sheet and improve its credit rating.

“This improvement in operating performance – combined with meaningful actions over the past 18 months to de-lever our balance sheet – have resulted in a stronger credit profile to help support Viacom’s return to long-term sustainable growth,” said Bakish. “We remain focused on building this momentum with an even stronger September quarter as we continue to position Viacom for the future.”

Here’s a look at how Viacom’s core business elements demonstrated a resurgence in the latest quarter:

Paramount Pictures continues profitability on theatrical hits, television production strength

Paramount’s new management team kicked off their slate with a pair of hits: A Quiet Place brought in $188 million domestically (and another $144 million internationally), on a $20 million budget, while Book Club, acquired for $10 million, raked in $68 million. After growing operating income for six consecutive quarters, Paramount Pictures reached profitability over the past two, with domestic revenue surging 58 percent year-over-year (YOY) in Q3. This trend is expected to continue during the fourth quarter on the strength of the well-reviewed Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which has earned more than $330 million globally – a record open for the franchise – since its July 27 debut.

The studio’s Paramount Television production arm continued to show strong growth, and is aiming for $400 million in revenues for fiscal 2018 behind licensing income from acclaimed series such as the second season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and The Alienist, which earned six Emmy nominations.

With deepened and expanded distribution deals, affiliate revenue is headed back toward growth

As Viacom has renewed or closed major affiliate renewals, the company has often broadened the agreements’ scope to include advanced advertising and co-production elements. Viacom has also captured new distribution, returning in full to Charter and Suddenlink and establishing carriage on vMVPD bundles, such as AT&T Watch. Domestic affiliate revenue has improved sequentially throughout fiscal 2018, and Viacom anticipates growth of one percent in the fourth quarter.

Viacom’s flagship media networks continue to grow audience share behind ratings strength

For the fifth consecutive quarter, Viacom’s flagship brands achieved YOY share growth as a unit. MTV is the fastest-growing network in primetime among the top 50 cable and broadcast channels in its target demo of adults 18 to 34, and the network has recorded YOY primetime ratings gains for four consecutive quarters. Combined, VH1 and MTV own nine of the quarter’s top 10 unscripted cable series. BET (up 23 percent in live-plus same day ratings among adults 18 to 49), and Comedy Central (recording its largest YOY primetime quarterly ratings gain since 2014), also delivered strong quarters.

Viacom’s move into premium content with the Paramount Network also showed momentum, with Western drama Yellowstone compiling an average of approximately 4.4 million live-plus-three-day viewers, good for the year’s most-watched scripted cable series after The Walking Dead.

Advertising Sales are gaining momentum behind Viacom’s Advanced Marketing Solutions portfolio

Strengthened brands and Viacom’s AMS portfolio – which includes branded content, advanced advertising technologies, and experiential offerings – helped drive the company’s best Upfront pricing in five years. AMS revenue grew 33 percent for the quarter, driving projections of a $300 million haul for the year and a return to growth for ad sales in fiscal 2019. Fox is also licensing Viacom’s ad-targeting Vantage product, an additional incremental revenue stream that validates AMS’ sophistication and value.  

EVOLVING INTO A MULTI-PLATFORM, GLOBAL, BRAND- AND IP-DRIVEN ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY

As Viacom transforms elements of its core business, the company has also been evolving to thrive in a digital and mobile landscape. Here’s a closer look at the three key initiatives – expanding the digital footprint, establishing a broader studio production business, and growing live events and adjacent businesses – that are driving the company’s evolution:

Digital consumption explodes under the Viacom Digital Studios umbrella

Behind the fast-growing Viacom Digital Studios, Viacom tripled its total digital streams since Q3 2016 to approximately 7 billion in this quarter, while recording YOY jumps in video views and watch time of 112 and 104 percent, respectively. The acquisition of Gen Z-focused digital video producer Awesomeness should further drive Viacom’s momentum in this space.

Viacom is building a cross-portfolio studio production operation that is aiming to be a $1 billion global, episodic content production business by 2020

From its launch in 2013, Paramount Television grew into a $400 million business, and Viacom is now expanding this studio production model across its portfolio. With deep vaults of intellectual property to feed the insatiable global demand for content, Viacom’s brands are ideally situated to feed this pipeline: Nickelodeon has already forged a deal to produce two seasons of Pinky Malinky for Netflix, while MTV Studios will leverage assets like The Real World, Daria, Made and others from its enormous and largely untapped youth-focused IP library. More deals are on the way, and other Viacom brands will soon launch their own studio models. Meanwhile, the newly formed Viacom International Studios is already producing Spanish- and Portuguese-language shows for Netflix, Amazon, Telemundo, Fox and others.

Live events attendance is becoming a substantial business driver

Demonstrating the power of its brands to transcend screens and translate across a variety of experiences, Viacom drew millions of fans to 65 branded live events – including Comedy Central Clusterfest, the BET Experience and Viacom’s first Vidcon – in the first three quarters of fiscal 2018. At the cross-section of live events and digital platforms, Bellator inked a nine-figure, multi-year distribution deal with global sports streaming service DAZN that will double Bellator’s revenue and make the organization profitable. Live events helped Viacom drive ancillary domestic revenues up 31 percent YOY during the quarter, to $93 million.

Viacom will wrap up its fourth quarter and full fiscal year in September. To see what Viacom will debut in the months ahead, scroll through the timeline below, or click here to view the full-screen version.




Younger Hits Season Ratings High With Christmas in July

Note: This post contains Younger spoilers.

Liza’s secret is out on Younger — but that hasn’t stopped fans from tuning in. In fact, more fans watched last week’s episode than any others this season.

The Season 5 episode, A Christmas Miracle, which aired on TV Land last Tuesday, hit a season high of 1.3 million total viewers (L+3), according to the network. Its ratings peaked in the key 24-54 demographic, particularly among women, with double-digit increases from the previous week. Season 5 of Younger is on pace to score its highest-rated season among both adults 18-49 and women 18-49.

The episode sent Christmas to July, where Liza’s long-time off-and-on love interest Charles declares his commitment to her in a swirling snowstorm following an unplanned encounter at a holiday party.

The popular series, starring Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, Peter Hermann, Nico Tortorella and Miriam Shor, was the No. 1 original ad-supported cable sitcom reaching the key women’s demographics of 18-49 and 25-54 (Nielsen, L+3) in 2017 — and it looks like things are only heating up this season.

A new episode of Younger airs on TV Land tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

Viacom Gets All Kinds of Awesomeness

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

AwesomenessTV Holdings, LLC (aka Awesomeness), a media company and leading digital-first destination for original programming, has established an unparalleled connection to GenZ – that coveted up-and-coming cohort born along with the tech revolution of the mid-1990s. Fed by strong relationships with top digital talent and influencers, Awesomeness has accumulated 6.4 million YouTube subscribers and another 158 million subscribers on its Awesomeness Network, becoming the premiere digital media network for the most digitally savvy cohort in history.

And now Viacom is acquiring Awesomeness, which will live under Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) and play an important role in Viacom’s robust and growing premium content production ecosystem, drive additional growth at VDS, and strengthen Viacom’s established digital and social relationships and dominance in youth culture.

“Awesomeness has done an incredible job building their brand into a digital media powerhouse for today’s most sought-after and hard-to-reach youth audiences,” said Kelly Day, President of Viacom Digital Studios and former Chief Business Officer of Awesomeness. “The team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, and a robust branded content studio and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios.”

Andie is on a mission to shake her stigma with the help of her three best friends in “Foursome,” which airs on YouTube Premium. Starring Jenn McAllister, Rickey Thompson and more.

Viacom is already a top player in youth culture, having curated strong audience connections with kids via Nickelodeon and young adults via MTV. The addition of Awesomeness’ young teen fan base further strengthens this broad demographic reach, while Awesomeness’ strong existing relationships with digital platforms, talent and influencers complements VDS’ existing efforts to reach these GenZ consumers on the mobile, social and digital platforms they call home.

While VDS has been growing briskly – more than tripling digital streams since 2016 and doubling YouTube subscribers over the past year, as total social views and watch time soared by 112 and 104 percent, respectively – Awesomeness’ dedicated sales force, branded content studio, and existing relationships with brands such as Hollister, Gatorade and Invisalign will further drive VDS’ growth and profitability. Awesomeness’ expertise across digital programming and distribution, production, talent management and audience development will also help fill out VDS’ still-growing staff.

With distribution deals with major SVOD players and its own Emmy-winning, youth-focused studios that have produced 200 hours of long-form television and feature film content, Awesomeness’ proven content development and production abilities are an especially good fit for Viacom, which has moved deliberately to ramp up its capabilities in this area recently: consolidating several operations across the Americas into Viacom International Studios to service global markets; moving to a studio model under which Nickelodeon, MTV and other brands will license and produce shows based on intellectual property for third-party platforms; and building Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Television production arm from scratch into a $400-million-and-growing annual business.

During an all-night, lock-in graduation party, a group of new grads will do whatever it takes to make their remaining high school dreams come true in “All Night,” which airs on Hulu. Starring Jenn McAllister, Eva Gutowski, Teala Dunn, Jake Short, Brec Bassinger and more.

Awesomeness alumni have already been helping to power Viacom’s transformation in this increasingly digital and mobile age: VDS President Kelly Day, VDS Executive Vice President of Talent and Development Paula Kaplan, and Paramount Players President Brian Robbins – who co-founded Awesomeness in 2012 with Joe Davola – each joined Viacom directly from Awesomeness, a testament to that entity’s penchant for producing top-grade talent.

Fourteen Years Later and Not a Day Older, Rugrats Return to TV, Theater

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Over the course of a nine-season, 13-year television run that also included three motion pictures, Nickelodeon’s beloved Rugrats crawled and waddled their way to four Daytime Emmy Awards and a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Now, the beloved tykes are returning to both television and movie theaters via Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Players division. This cross-brand collaboration, which will maximize Rugrats’ reach across platforms and among varied audiences, is Viacom’s latest effort to tap the value of its deep intellectual property well by fully activating the power of its brand ecosystem in support of marquee franchises and talent.

Rugrats is hands-down one of the most celebrated cartoons in TV history, and we are thrilled for a whole new audience to meet these iconic characters in brand-new adventures,” said Viacom Media Networks COO and Nickelodeon Interim President Sarah Levy. “What was true in 1991 when the original show premiered is still true today: kids are fascinated with the world of babies. We can’t wait for today’s kids to meet Tommy, Chuckie and pals.”

The 26-episode comeback season is already under production at Nickelodeon’s Burbank studio, under the supervision of original creators and series executive producers Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain. The as-yet-untitled fourth Rugrats movie, slated for a November 13, 2020 release, will be a live-action film with CGI characters.

Nickelodeon’s vault holds some of the most iconic names in children’s entertainment, and the network is moving deliberately to resurrect select properties that resonate with today’s audiences, both on Nick’s networks and on third-party platforms. Last year’s Hey Arnold! special sent the Hillwood crew back to television, and an updated Blue’s Clues series is in the works, along with special events featuring fan favorites Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim. Through a studio model that is proliferating across Viacom, Nick will also produce two full animated seasons of infectiously positive teenage hotdog Pinky Malinky for Netflix.

Rugrats, which last aired new episodes in 2004, has always proved popular with moviegoers. The trio of Paramount Pictures-distributed films – The Rugrats Movie, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie, and Rugrats Go Wild – grossed nearly $300 million in total box office between 1998 and 2003. The forthcoming film will be the seventh project announced by Paramount Players, which develops and produces co-branded feature films with Viacom Media Networks.

“Now feels like the ideal time to reintroduce this iconic cast of characters to a whole new generation of young fans,” said Paramount Players President Brian Robbins. “Kids who grew up with Tommy Pickles and the Rugrats crew will now be able to share that experience with their own children.”

Nick International Roars for Change: Together for Good Wildlife Special

Lions, giraffes, elephants…oh my!

Kids interested in learning about endangered species can watch Together for Good Wildlife Special, in which Breanna Yde of Nick’s School of Rock guides viewers on a journey through Uganda. On the tour, she discovers key conservation and environmental challenges, and hears from heroes who work daily to protect at-risk wildlife including lions, giraffes, rhinoceroses, elephants and chimpanzees. Digital vignettes supplement the story, creating a vivid, immersive world.

The special was produced through a partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation and Nick International’s social responsibility initiative, Together for Good. The goal is to raise awareness about endangered wildlife and act as a call to action, using Nickelodeon’s globally recognized brand to empower kids to become change-makers.

Nickelodeon star Breanna Yde guides viewers on a journey through Uganda in Nickelodeon International’s Together For Good Wildlife Special, Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon International.

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Nickelodeon’s ‘Double Dare’ Reboot Is Most-Viewed Series on Kids’ TV in 2018

Nickelodeon’s Double Dare attracted an average of 1.4 million viewers during its premiere week—making it the most-viewed series on kids’ TV this year.

In an indication of the reboot’s multi-generational appeal, Double Dare ranked number one in its timeslot among kids and teens between ages 2 and 14 on both impressions and share, and the June 25th premiere was Nick’s best series launch among adults 18-49 in more than five years, according to Nielsen*.

The iconic game show, which airs weekdays at 8 pm, is hosted by digital creator and actress Liza Koshy. Each episode features two teams as they battle for prizes through mind-bending trivia questions and physically demanding stunts, including the legendary obstacle course (replete with the human hamster wheel, the wringer, and the Double Dare nose). Original host Mark Summers is back, this time providing color commentary.

“Ratings for the first full week indicate that kids, new viewers and adults alike are showing up for Double Dare and loving it,” said Sarah Levy, COO of Viacom Media Networks and interim head of Nickelodeon. “Liza Koshy and Marc Summers have great chemistry. The kid contestants are totally relatable to our audience. And The Loud House lead-in is a winner, ranking at number one with kids on all TV for the week.”

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After Hot U.S. Start, Paramount Network Launches in UK

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Since its U.S. debut in January, Paramount Network has quickly bolstered Viacom’s position in the premium content space, with its first three originals – Waco, American Woman, and Yellowstone – drawing strong ratings by fusing quality storytelling with top talent.

Tomorrow, Viacom will launch a free-to-air Paramount Network in the UK, bringing the blend of premium content, unscripted fare, movies and more to one of its top European markets.

“Launching on TV screens in the U.K. is another critical milestone for the Paramount Network brand, which we’re convinced will resonate strongly with British viewers, given Paramount’s distinguished and successful history of epic, cinematic storytelling for global audiences,” said Jill Offman, executive vice president of Comedy Central and Paramount Network International. “Delivering free-to-air content to millions of U.K. households underlines our belief that, despite the growing popularity of on-demand, viewers continue to value highly TV channels that offer an intelligently scheduled linear lineup of quality entertainment.”

The channel will build on the company’s considerable past success in the UK, plugging in the editorial team of Viacom-owned Channel 5 to schedule and program the new Paramount Network.

“Paramount Network is set to deliver high-end Hollywood entertainment with blockbuster movies, scripted drama and critically acclaimed comedy featuring some of the biggest names on the planet,” said Channel 5 Director of Programs Ben Frow. “Supported by Channel 5’s creative scheduling and audience insight and underpinned by Viacom’s brand-building expertise, Paramount Network is a popular premium content destination in a free-to-air world.”

Launch content will include the hit unscripted Lip Sync Battle, the seventh season of the popular Suits, Kaitlin Olsen’s The Mick, action drama Six and fantasy drama Heroes Reborn. Classic movies, some from Paramount Pictures’ 106-year-old library, will also air on the network, which will be available on Sky, BT and Freeview.

The Paramount Network in the UK is the second to launch outside of the United States. Last month, Spain rebranded its existing Paramount Channel, which was one of Viacom’s highest-rated networks outside of the U.S. Content includes a blend of movies and television series, including the locally popular reality show Alaska & Mario: El Huracan Mexicano.

“Paramount Network has great positioning and fits perfectly with our strategy in Spain,” Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of Viacom International Media Networks Southern and Western Europe, Middle East and Africa, said when announcing the network’s arrival. “Paramount Channel has achieved great results in Spain, but it’s time to evolve the brand even further, making the channel increasingly contemporary and relevant for the Spanish market.”

BET Awards Is Cable’s Top Awards Show for Fourth Consecutive Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

With Jamie Foxx at the helm and a parade of headline performers electrifying the stage, the 2018 BET Awards once again landed as the top-rated and most-talked-about cable awards show of the year, drawing 4.3 million viewers across eight Viacom networks.

The numbers speak for themselves – the BET Awards are: the top cable awards show in the key 18-49 demographic for the fourth consecutive year*; the top cable awards among African-Americans 18-49 for the 17th straight year; and the most social cable awards show year-to-date and most social program of the night, sparking 2.1 million interactions (+89 percent total engagements from 2017) across Facebook and Twitter, topping even soccer’s World Cup for online buzz.

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 24: Janelle Monae (C) performs onstage at the 2018 BET Awards at Microsoft Theater on June 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paras Griffin/VMN18/Getty Images for BET)

The cross-platform success of BET’s tentpole event capped a strong week for Viacom’s burgeoning live-events business, as ratings and viewership exploded for the MTV Movie & TV Awards, and Vidcon’s first major convention since sliding under the Viacom umbrella met positive marks for retaining its creative soul. Meanwhile, the company’s core television business continued to strengthen behind the debut of Paramount Network’s Yellowstone, which was the most-viewed cable scripted drama in more than two years.

Strong performances and a broad-based award slate that honors everything from the best in music (Cardi B, Drake, Kendrick Lamar), to industry legends (eight-time Grammy-winner Anita Baker, former BET CEO Debra Lee), and humanitarian achievements (Parkland hero Anthony Borges, 11-year-old March For Our Lives speaker Naomi Wadler), fused to drive the strong ratings and social metrics for the BET Awards. In a lineup that included Janelle Monae’s acrobatic rapping, a surprise appearance by J. Cole, and a multi-genre performance by Snoop Dogg, Meek Mill met universal acclaim for what the Washington Post called, “the night’s most powerful performance,” addressing a matrix of issues from police brutality to mass incarceration on a recreated street corner in his new single Stay Woke:

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Viacommunity, VH1, Comedy Central and EMERGE Werked the New York City Pride Parade

On Sunday June 24, roughly two million revelers filled the streets of downtown Manhattan to celebrate the culmination of Pride Month: the 49th annual New York City Pride March.

Among them walked a contingent of nearly 350 Viacom-affiliated marchers, a procession of employees, media and corporate partners amidst a pair of Comedy Central- and VH1-branded floats. EMERGE, Viacom’s employee resource group focused on LGBT employees and straight allies, and Viacommunity, Viacom’s social responsibility arm, had helped rally the boisterous crew.

Fans at the 2018 New York Pride Parade. Photo by Sarah Stone.

“June is a special month for EMERGE as we have the opportunity to bring awareness, engage, and celebrate with Viacom employees while we have the spotlight on us this special month,” said Emily Albertson, a senior manager at Comedy Central and EMERGE leader.

“We always see an influx of new members joining in June, which help us lead the charge in continuing to fight for LGBTQ rights for the rest of the year. We love having the opportunity to show employees that Viacom supports all of their employees regardless of sexual preference or identity.”

The day’s weather forecast predicted thunderstorms and scattered showers, but as a harbinger of positive energy, clouds parted around noon –  just in time for the parade to begin.

VH1 sponsored the parade with a float for the first time, choosing its award-winning show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, to represent Viacom with a glitzy, purple contraption emblazoned with show’s sassy catchphrase, “Sashay Away.”

VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race float “Sashay Away” was a fan-favorite at the 2018 New York City Pride Parade. Photo by Sarah Stone.

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Bellator Takes the Fight Online in Nine-Figure Deal with DAZN

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 26: (L-R) Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Gegard Mousasi, Scott Coker, James Rushton, Rory MacDonald, Wanderlei Silva and Lyoto Machida attend the Bellator-DAZN announcement press conference on June 26, 2018 at Viacom in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Bellator MMA)

In recent months, Bellator MMA has crisscrossed the globe, hosting fights for its international fan base in such diverse locations as London (Bellator 200), California (199), Budapest (196) and Israel (188), among others.

Now, the Viacom-owned global combat sports franchise is queueing up fight cards for a totally new destination – online, via a nine-figure deal with international live sports streamer DAZN.

The streaming deal plants an important digital component into Viacom’s ever-expanding live-events business while expanding Bellator’s global footprint and injecting the league with the additional financial resources it needs to expand its roster.

Noting that Bellator had become a “significant revenue generator” since Viacom acquired the property eight years ago, Viacom CFO Wade Davis underscored the importance of live events to the company’s growth strategy.

“Viacom has led the industry in creating iconic, fan-centered events through MTV’s VMAs, the BET Experience that happened in L.A. last weekend, the CMT Music Awards, and Comedy Central’s Clusterfest,” Davis said, speaking at a press conference at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters announcing the DAZN partnership. “Nobody does live events the way we do, with the combination of a focus on brand, talent and sponsors, all expressed across multiple platforms.”

Bellator intends to invest at least some of the proceeds from this streaming agreement into its roster, enhancing the live experience with a dynamic group of fighters.

“This deal will allow the roster to continue to expand, and an expanded roster means bigger fights,” Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT President Kevin Kay said at the press conference. “It means we’ll be able to give our best fighters more opportunities to do what they do best. So more fights that the fans want to see. Everybody wins.”

While MMA fans in 162 countries can already view Bellator events through local television partners, this streaming agreement will add a popular online platform to the mix. DAZN has spent several years steadily building itself into an online destination for sports fans in Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. With the Bellator deal – and a recent agreement that granted DAZN U.S. streaming rights to the World Boxing Super Series – the streamer is set to enter the United States in September. DAZN will also soon expand into Italy.

“On DAZN’s worldwide platform, our fights will be seen live for the first time to new audiences around the globe,” said Bellator President Scott Coker.

Under the agreement, Perform Group-owned DAZN will exclusively stream seven annual fight cards, and will simulcast another 15 that air on Paramount Network. All fights will stream in all DAZN markets.

“It’s simple; fans want to see great fighters in competitive fights so we’ve handed the keys to Scott Coker and his venerable team to go out and recruit even more top-level talent to further stack Bellator fight cards and build on their success,” said DAZN CEO James Rushton.  “With the combination of this investment and our recent announcement to bring more than 30 nights of boxing to the platform annually, DAZN will be a must-have for fight fans in the U.S.”

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