Transformers Return, The Mist Creeps In, Logo Honors Trailblazers, Bellator Hits MSG, 17th BET Awards Air – All in a Spectacular Weekend for Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

This is an extraordinary week for Viacom, a showcase of our diverse properties and the incredible power of our brands, sprawled across theaters, televisions and event spaces all over the world.

On Wednesday, the fifth Transformers movie opened in theaters. Thursday brought Spike’s mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. Friday we celebrate Pride month with Logo’s Trailblazer Honors. Saturday is perhaps the marquee night in Bellator history, as the Spike-owned property drops into New York City’s Madison Square Garden. And Sunday takes us to the West Coast, where BET will broadcast their marquee BET Awards.

As Viacom refocuses under the leadership of CEO Bob Bakish, this rapid-fire concentration of noteworthy properties distills the impressive breadth and depth of Viacom’s multi-brand portfolio.

Here’s a day-by-day look at what’s already dropped and what’s to come over the weekend:

Wednesday, June 21 – Transformers: The Last Knight – Paramount Pictures

It is the fifth installment in the live-action Transformers spectaculars directed by Michael Bay, an intriguing collision of ancient epochs with the robot alien present, and a special effects masterpiece.

“…[I]f you’re not staggered by the technique on display here – the stuff that sets Bay’s work miles above the Fast & Furiouses, X-Men: Apocalypses and Tom Cruise-chasing Mummies of this world – you’re not paying attention,” writes The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin.

Here’s a preview of what he’s talking about:

Since the first Transformers movie hit theaters in 2007, the franchise has raked in nearly $4 billion for Paramount and redefined important elements of the movie industry. “Ever since the first movie in the robo-franchise was released into theaters a decade ago, the film industry has changed its approach to producing, releasing and reporting on movies,” writes The Street’s Buster Coen, noting that the films legitimized toy-to-cinema adaptations, stamped June as a month for movie blockbusters, and set the template for international distribution of American films.

Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters around the world now. A Bumblebee spin-off is scheduled for release next summer.

Thursday, June 22 – The Mist Spike

With a cast of complex characters unified by their small-town setting, the deft use of suspense and drama, and some imaginative writing, Spike has transformed Stephen King’s 1980 novella about a sinister, monster-filled cloud descending upon a small Maine town into a 10-part serial that debuted last night.

And it’s really good, according to a platoon of critics who got an advanced look at the pilot. “Spike’s new series based on The Mist … wasn’t written by King, but it does the author proud ,” writes CNET’s Gael Fashingbauer Cooper.

The series was written, rather, by a team led by Denmark native Christian Torpe, who is a lifelong King fan and consulted with the author at the project’s outset. King simply told him, “Don’t do anything ordinary.”

Torpe appears to have succeeded, leaving even those familiar with King’s original work in suspense. “It’s hard to judge where this newer, looser adaptation might progress from just the first hour, but Torpe has said that, like King, he intends to explore the nature of fanaticism, and how fear so often compels people to seek out unlikely prophets,” writes The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert. “If so, The Mist could be a satisfyingly complex chiller, scaring viewers not just with unexpected jumps and amped-up creepy crawlies, but with the more human monsters who are all trapped together inside, waiting out the weather.”

The Mist premieres at a time of incredible momentum for Spike, which will evolve into the premium TV Paramount Network in January of next year. While the network is still determining an exact programming lineup, they have already announced Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, a six-part documentary on Trayvon Martin produced in conjunction with The Weinstein Company, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, a six-part Waco series documenting the 1993 stand-off at the Branch Dividian compound, and a television adaptation of the 1988 classic film Heathers.

Friday, June 23 – Logo Trailblazer Honors – Logo

The fourth installment of Logo’s marquee event follows last year’s emotional outpouring of defiant pride in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

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5 Questions: Spike’s Jon Slusser Weighs in On Bellator MMA Coming to NYC

Get ready for the main event. For the first time, Bellator MMA is coming to New York City, where Spike will host its biggest fan spectacular yet, live from Madison Square Garden.

Jon Slusser, Viacom senior vice president for Sports and Specials at Spike, talks about what makes this event historic: from the title fights to the overall fan experience, and why, thanks to the dedication of the Spike team, Bellator continues to be a knockout success.

Hear what Slusser has to say about this fans-first extravaganza.

Created by Viacom Catalyst.

A Growing Market for Mixed Martial Arts

by Erica Saylor, Tr3s

The sport of mixed martial arts, more commonly known as MMA, has experienced tremendous growth in its fan base particularly among the Hispanic Millennial demo. Since it’s introduction in 1993, the most famous MMA organizations have exploded and evolved into an empire of pay-per-view fights and large arena events, as well as a lifestyle industry, complete with clothing lines, fighter appearances and dramatic rivalries. Its most famous Latino star is Mexican-American fighter Cain Velasquez. With pride for their humble roots and Hispanic heritage, Velasquez and other Hispanic fighters have helped boost support from the growing Hispanic Millennial populace. Read More

Behind the Scenes, On the Boardwalk with Bellator

by Mark Jafar, Viacom

Fighters Daniel Straus (left) and Mike Corey connect during the Featherweight Seminfinal at Bellator 65 (Photo credit: Bellator.com)

Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk Hall has played host to The Beatles and Stones, Sinatra and Pavarotti, presidents, pageants and performances alike.  But the Prohibition-era seaside arena is perhaps best known for its fights.  Over the past 50 years, the Hall has hosted dozens of professional boxing’s biggest title bouts, bringing names like Tyson, Holyfield, Foreman and Holmes to its marquee.

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Outside the Octagon with ‘MMA: Uncensored Live’

by Mark Jafar, Viacom

Inside the MMA: Uncensored Live control room in Viacom's Times Square studio

From 2005 through 2011, Spike TV and the UFC enjoyed a fruitful broadcast partnership, spawning 14 successful seasons of reality hit The Ultimate Fighter, as well as UFC Unleashed and UFC Primetime.  In a formative time for both the network and league alike, each built its brand and audience in a big way.

Now, with the UFC headed to broadcast-ier pastures and Bellator, its MMA heir apparent, not due to air on Spike until 2013, the network faces something of an existential challenge.

Jon Slusser, senior vice president of Sports & Specials for Spike, sums it up neatly.

“How do we let our fans and advertisers know that Spike is still home to MMA?”

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