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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Leslie Jones to Host Star-Laden 17th BET Awards

The 17th BET Awards will celebrate top music, television, sports and movie talent on Sunday, June 25.

Comedian and Saturday Night Live actress and writer Leslie Jones, host of the 2017 awards show, got her start on BET and can’t wait to return to honor some of entertainment’s hottest stars.

The BET Awards have become a cultural touchstone. Last year’s awards captivated audiences with mesmerizing performances and a tribute to Prince. One of the evening’s most moving moments came when Jesse Williams, Greys Anatomy star and civil rights activist, utilized his Humanitarian Award acceptance speech to address how the challenges of living in a racially prejudiced world impact the black community.

This year’s Humanitarian Award winner is Chance the Rapper, whom BET is honoring for his strides toward improving the lives of young black men, decreasing gun violence, and financially supporting Chicago Public Schools.

Another highlight of the show will be incredible performances by artists Bruno Mars, Future, Migos, Trey Songz, Tamar Braxton and more.

The BET Awards draws top names from across the entertainment landscape, and many of them will ascend the stage to present awards. Among the major names will be Yara Shahidi, Cardi B, Issa Rae, Jamie Foxx, La La Anthony, Trevor Noah, Robin Thede, Cari Champion and Demetrius Shipp Jr.

The nominees include some of the biggest names in entertainment.  Queen Bey (Beyoncé) will be continuing her highest total nomination streak with seven new nominations, including Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Best Collaboration with Kendrick Lamar for Freedom, Video of the Year, and Album of the Year for Lemonade. Bruno Mars is nominated in five categories, including Album of the Year, Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, and Video of the Year. Chance the Rapper and Migos each clocked four nominations. Check out the full list of nominees below.

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BET Says Yes To Our Fans, Yes to Our Stories at the 2017 Upfront Presentation

BET continues its 16-year reign as the number one cable network for African-American viewers. With a broad slate of programming that includes award-winning, original series such as Being Mary Jane, whistle-blowing documentaries such as Charged: The DA vs. Black America, momentous specials like Black Girls Rock!, and renowned tentpole events that include the BET Awards, BET unfailingly captures the zeitgeist of its fans’ world.

At BET’s annual upfront presentation – an event where programmers preview their upcoming shows for advertisers – CEO Debra Lee revealed the network’s plans for the upcoming year: Rebranding sister network Centric, a swell of hit biopics and miniseries, and a partnership with Twitter that focuses on African-American social media trends.

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 27: (L-R) Actor Deon Cole, comedian Wanda Sykes and Endyia Kinney-Sterns attend the 2017 BET Upfront NY at PlayStation Theater on April 27, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for BET)

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BET, VH1 Win NAMIC Awards for Telling Diverse, Authentic Stories

Whose stories are being told on television? Now, more than ever, they’re our viewers’—their lives, experiences, and individual triumphs and hardships.

The National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) Vision Awards honor original TV programming that reflects the diversity of its audience.

NAMIC announced this year’s winners on Monday, April 24. Thirteen shows from three Viacom networks, including BET, VH1, and Nickelodeon, were nominated for awards. Out of these nominations, three programs—including BET’s Being Mary Jane, Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement and VH1’s Hip Hop Honors: All Hail the Queens won their respective categories.

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Viacom Wins Eight Cynopsis Social Good Awards, Including Impact Honors for Its LISTEN Addiction Initiative

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Anchored by its stigma-crushing LISTEN addiction initiative, Viacom brands underscored the companywide commitment to social responsibility by earning seven honors at the Cynopsis Social Good Awards ceremony in New York City this morning.

LISTEN, which earned the Impact Campaign distinction, is a multi-dimensional campaign grounded in the belief that compassion and awareness are central elements to fighting the scourge of addiction. A partnership with Facing Addiction, LISTEN unites addiction-fighting resources with transformational video stories of individuals who have fought from nearly hopeless circumstances to become inspirations for those still struggling to find sobriety.

This video is just one in a series posted on heretolisten.com. A LISTEN special that aired across 11 Viacom networks has been viewed more than 2 million times and drove 38.1 million social impressions and more than 56,000 engagements across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Debi Mazar, one of the stars of TV Land’s hit Younger, appeared alongside Niels Schuurmans, executive vice president of Viacom Velocity, to accept the award on the company’s behalf.

“I am so proud to see Viacom mobilize the voice and reach of its channels to take action in breaking down the shame and stigma around addiction and address it for what it is – a health issue,” Mazar said. “Media has the power to change hearts and minds. And LISTEN is doing that one story and conversation at a time.”

LISTEN also took top honors in the Branded Campaign for a TV Series or Special Programming category.

Logo earned a pair of honors. The network’s stirring Trailblazer Honors ceremony served as a tribute to victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and took the Philanthropic/Human Rights Campaign category, while its Fill in the Blank push around Pride Month earned best Branded Campaign for a Digital or Mobile Platform.

BET Networks also took two categories. Its HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) Snapchat tour earned best Digital Media Campaign:


While the network’s understated Vote Your Voice spots earned top Hash Tag Promotion:

Viacom International Media Networks earned the last two honor, in the Public Service Announcement and Best Spot (30 Seconds or Less) categories, both for Nickelodeon’s Together for Good collaboration with UNICEF, which works to protect disadvantaged children around the world.

In addition to the Impact Award, Viacom received 44 total nominations across 21 categories and an impressive array of brands, including Nick Jr., Spike, Viacom International Media Networks, MTV, VH1, and our Viacom Velocity in-house agency.

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BET Presents: The ABFF Honors Capped Off Black History Month By Honoring Premier Black Cultural Influencers

The week before Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy after winning Best Supporting Actress for her role in Paramount’s Fences at the 89th annual Academy Awards, BET held a special ceremony dedicated to black entertainment.

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Actor Morris Chestnut speaks onstage during BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors on February 17, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

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Viacom CEO Bakish Outlines Long-Term Growth Strategy on CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Footage courtesy of CNBC.

Viacom will marshal its resources around six flagship networks: MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, and Spike, which will be rebranded next year as a premium Paramount channel. Paramount Pictures will not be going anywhere; in fact, the flagship networks will join forces with the iconic studio to produce one or two co-branded films every single year. The company still claims the highest viewership of any cable family in the United States.

These were among the core messages that our CEO, Bob Bakish, delivered to David Farber on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street following release of the company’s first quarter 2017 earnings yesterday. Watch the full conversation above, and click over to Viacom Investor Relations to read the press release or listen to the earnings call.

BET Celebrates Black History Month With a Brilliant Nelson Mandela Biopic

It’s never felt more relevant to watch a film that brings truth to one of the world’s most stirring leaders.

On April 26, 1964, Nelson Mandela addressed the court in Rivona, South Africa.

“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” said Nelson Mandela. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

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“Faithfully Recreated” New Edition Story Delivers Authenticity and Torrid Ratings to BET

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

New Edition exploded out of anonymity from the Orchard Park Projects in Roxbury, Massachusetts in the early 1980s, selling millions of albums as the stamped the template for the boy band super-groups of the ‘90s and beyond. At one time, they were bigger than Beat It, when their 1983 debut track Candy Girl beat out one of Michael Jackson’s signature hits for the top spot on the Billboard chart. In the meteoric and fraught years that followed, they would break up and reunite while spawning the solo careers of Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill, along with the quadruple platinum collaboration of Bell Biv DeVoe.

When this foundational tale debuted over three nights last week on BET as The New Edition Story, it instantly became the network’s most-watched premiere since The Game dropped in 2012. The show went on to average more than 4 million viewers per episode across BET and sister network Centric while dominating the social media conversation for three consecutive nights.

The tale resonated in part due to its raw, unfiltered nature, delivering the uncensored drama of the exhilarating climb to success, the infighting that led to break-ups and reunions, the wild back-stage mingling amid groupies and substances, and the financial collapses that defied their spotlight. This scene depicting the group members’ mothers’ rage at receiving a check for $1.87 after a sprawling and highly successful tour is typical:

“Normally biopics are padded with dramatic falsehoods for entertainment,” wrote Billboard’s Niki McGloster, “but as the executive producers of the film, New Edition kept the story true to how they lived it.”

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