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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5 Questions With VidCon Co-Founder and Chairman Hank Green

VidCon, the world’s biggest conference for online video, was held from June 22 – 24, and Viacom showed up in a big way. Paramount Network hosted a panel on the power of storytelling. Nickelodeon held activations around Double Dare and Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, plus a special appearance by JoJo Siwa. MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Velocity were also represented. Additionally, Viacom held a panel on the power of youth to create change to debut Viacom’s new global pro-social initiative, Generation Change. For this 5 Questions, we spoke to VidCon co-founder and chairman Hank Green to hear about the vision behind the event and where it’s headed next.

Video by Viacom Catalyst.

Paramount Network’s Yellowstone Draws 5 Million Viewers for Cable’s Best Scripted Drama Premiere Since 2016

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following a strong ratings start earlier this month for American Woman, Paramount Network cemented its place as a premium content destination by drawing in more than 5 million viewers (live+3*) for the debut episode of Yellowstone.

The series – set in a rough-and-tumble modern day American West where John Dutton (Kevin Costner), proprietor of the nation’s largest ranch, faces constant land-use pressure from developers, Native American tribes and the neighboring national park – struck gold with viewers, landing as ad-supported cable’s most-watched scripted-drama series in more than two years (since FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson).

Among Yellowstone’s headline numbers: It is this summer’s No. 1 new drama on broadcast and cable*. The program drew a 1.1 rating with the 18-49 demographic, and an even more impressive 1.7 with the 25-54 age group. It has attracted more viewers than every World Cup game on Fox and FS1, every Major League baseball telecast, and every game of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Finals. It is the most-watched program in the history of Paramount Network and its predecessor, Spike.

Paramount Network – Viacom’s newest net – has considerably strengthened Viacom’s position in the original premium content space since it debuted in January with strong ratings for its first original, Waco, a six-part miniseries revisiting the siege of the Branch Davidian’s Texas compound in 1993.

This string of early successes validates Paramount Network’s strategy of recruiting and investing in top talent to drive its productions. American Woman stars Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels. Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon headlined Waco. And Yellowstone stars Costner and is created, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, a renowned filmmaker whose credits include the well-regarded Sicario, Hell or High Water and Wind River.

Yellowstone has everything a worthwhile Western should, including breathtaking vistas, battles over land and Kevin Costner in the lead role,” Lynn Elber wrote for the Associated Press.

“Yellowstone” premiered Wednesday, June 20 on Paramount Network. John Dutton (center – Kevin Costner), owner of the Dutton Ranch is surrounded by his ranch team (pictured l to r) Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), Lloyd (Forrie Smith), Fred (Luke Peckinpah), Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), Colby (Denim Richards) and Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser).

By populating well-crafted stories with sought-after talent, the net has drawn viewers in with the sort of larger-than-television experiences that define this era of premium TV.

“I hope that the experience feels really fresh and cinematic and like a movie made for people who are sitting at home,” Sheridan told Indiewire. “That was the goal. So I hope that the scope of it and the energy and the emotion and the incredible talent of the cast, hopefully, they really leap from the screen and we have an impression that make people want to come back for more.”

New episodes of Yellowstone air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Paramount Network.

* Nielsen, L3 data, CVG AA%; cable drama series premieres with Premiere indicator; 2018 entertainment telecasts=1/1/18-6/20/18 L3 P2+, excludes sports and news; sports comparisons L3 P2+ through 6/20/18;  Summer=5/24/18-6/20/18; L3; Premiere indicator; excludes repeats

5 Questions With CMT and TV Land General Manager Frank Tanki

June has been hectic for CMT and TV Land. Season 5 of TV Land’s original scripted series Younger aired earlier this month, along with the CMT Music Awards. And the highly anticipated mid-season premiere of Nashville on CMT aired on June 7. There are only a few episodes left until the series finale in July.

To talk about all this and more, we sat down with Frank Tanki, General Manager of CMT and TV Land. He shares his thoughts on the ratings success at both networks, and what fans can expect next.

Video by Viacom Catalyst.