Coming Soon to Viacom: Tyler Perry

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fans of Viacom, BET, Paramount and Tyler Perry got some good news last week:

Beginning in May 2019, the prolific writer, director, producer, actor and playwright behind seven television series, 16 feature films and 20 plays will turn his creative energies toward producing 90 episodes of original comedy and drama each year for BET and other Viacom networks. His movies may be coming to Viacom even sooner – Paramount Pictures has exclusive first look rights to Perry’s new feature film content starting immediately.

“Today’s announcement represents an important step forward as Viacom continues to make swift progress against our new strategic plan,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, referring to the company’s February reorientation around our six flagship networks: MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., BET, and Spike (soon to become Paramount Network).

“By prioritizing efforts to work with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry, we are better positioned to deliver must-watch content across our brands and platforms. Tyler is a prolific creative force, and I’m excited that this collaboration will bring his signature humor and powerful storytelling to Viacom’s audiences while further cementing BET’s position as the leading home for bold, relevant African-American programming and scripted content.”

Perry, whose work has aired extensively on BET, cited Viacom’s vast reach and inroads with his target audience as motivation behind signing on with the company. “Viacom has a rich tradition of reaching my audience through their TV, film and digital platforms and I am excited to partner with them,” he said. “I am eager to have one home where I can leverage all of their assets to tell my stories to an even wider audience.”

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Viacom’s Assets “Uniquely Configured to Serve” Demand for Low-Cost Bundle, Bakish Tells CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Video courtesy of CNBC. Used with permission.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is in Paris this week, attending the Viva Tech conference, where he provided more insight into the low-cost entertainment package that he has been promoting in recent weeks, saying in a conversation with CNBC that such a product could be on the market as soon as this calendar year.

With a price target somewhere between $10 and $20, the sports-free package would offer significant savings from both the traditional large bundle and the $40 over-the-internet options that are now proliferating.

Bakish points to Netflix’s tens of millions of U.S. subscribers and its $10 price point as indicative of the demand for lower-cost non-sports services. Viacom’s assets are, he says, “uniquely configured to serve this.”

“Ultimately, the question will be, how does the market segment, because we’re at a transition point in the market,” Bakish notes “…but by introducing this lower price point, we think with these cord nevers and millennials, this is where we start to get traction.”

While the exact look of the package remains unclear, one thing is certain: Viacom will continue to evolve to meet the consumer where they are.

 

Remembering Brad Grey

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Brad Grey, who led Viacom’s Paramount Pictures for a dozen years and left a rich legacy at the studio, passed away on Sunday evening following a battle with cancer. He was in his home in Holmby Hills, California with his family by his side. He was 59 years old.

“Brad Grey was an extraordinary talent with a passion and gift for storytelling that won’t be forgotten,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “He has left an incredible legacy at Paramount and across the entire entertainment industry, from the beloved hit franchises he developed for both film and television, to the countless individuals he mentored and supported throughout his career. All of us at Viacom and Paramount mourn his passing, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

Grey’s commitment to delivering poignant, compelling stories to audiences around the world bolstered the 105-year-old studio’s deep library with films across many genres. Starting with the smash hit Transformers in 2007, Grey guided Paramount into the franchise era with the original Paranormal Activity and continuations of the classic Mission: Impossible and Star Trek series. The studio complemented these releases with a parade of must-see standalone films, including the cerebral Interstellar, the gripping World War Z, and the gonzo Wolf of Wall Street.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 27: Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures Brad Grey attend the New York premiere of "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" at Times Square on July 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 27: Alec Baldwin, Tom Cruise and Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures Brad Grey attend the New York premiere of “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” at Times Square on July 27, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Aside from box office success – eight of Paramount’s 10 top-grossing films came over Grey’s tenure – this varied slate earned many accolades for the studio, including at least one Academy Awards Best Picture nominee in 11 of Grey’s 12 years. Most recently, Paramount earned a pair of Oscars in February: Viola Davis took Best Supporting Actress for her work in the widely hailed adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences, while the gorgeous Arrival earned the award for Sound Editing (both earned Best Picture nominations). At the 2008 Academy Awards, Paramount’s No Country for Old Men won four Oscars – Best Film, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay.

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Paramount Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brad Grey (R) and Cassandra Grey attend the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 22: Paramount Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brad Grey (R) and Cassandra Grey attend the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images)

 

“All of us at Paramount are deeply saddened by the news of Brad Grey’s passing,” said current Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “He was at the helm of the studio for over a decade and was responsible for so many of the studio’s most beloved films. I was proud to call Brad a friend, and one I greatly admired. He will be missed by us all, and left his mark on our industry and in our hearts.”

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Unity Spans the Globe for Viacommunity Day’s 21st Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Lisa Di Venuta contributed reporting.

In an enormous show of support for local communities around the world, more than 4,000 Viacom employees threw themselves into the 21st annual Viacommunity Day last Friday. It was themed as a day of unity, bringing employees from every part of the company together at more than 150 projects sites across the United States and more than a dozen other nations, a collective effort that underscored Viacom’s unwavering dedication to putting our resources, skills, energies and collective will toward improving our communities.

“Viacommunity has a long legacy with our company,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, standing among a group of employees outside of a Boys & Girls Club in New Rochelle, 20 miles north of Times Square in the New York City suburbs. “I remember when I joined the company in 1997 in the early days of Viacommunity, and it’s always been a day, throughout different management teams, throughout different phases of the media business, where we would take a day and allow people to give back to their communities. This is all evidence that communities matter. That’s what Viacommunity is all about.”

 

Viacommunity Day 2017 Recap Video from Viacom on Vimeo.

Support for the effort transcended our employee ranks, reaching into the celebrity Twittersphere:

Events began early in the morning, spreading west from our outposts in Asia and Australia and following the sun across Europe and Africa and then jumping the Atlantic. The Viacommunity spirit rippled from the five boroughs of New York City and across the suburbs, west to Tennessee and finally California, where Paramount locked in the Viacommunity Day Cup for the second consecutive year.

Below is just a small sampling of the energy, enthusiasm, and effort that our volunteers injected into their communities over the course of a single day.

A Viacom employee gets psyched for Viacommunity Day 2017 in front of Viacom's Times Square headquarters.

A Viacom employee gets psyched for Viacommunity Day 2017 in front of 1515 Broadway.

CALIFORNIA – Paramount Repeats as Viacommunity Day Cup Champions

With the highest percentage of employees participating in Viacommunity Day out of any Viacom division, Paramount locked in the Viacommunity Day Cup for the second consecutive year. Employees had spent the past 12 months passing their prize around, Stanley Cup style, with different groups holding the trophy for a week at a time. Taking the cup again is a testament to how deeply entrenched the Viacommunity spirit is on the lot, where longstanding relationships with local schools and organizations fuse with individual efforts to create an atmosphere rich with giving.

The Fulfillment Fund

The commitment was evident on Paramount’s Hollywood lot on Friday morning, when a bus pulled in to pick up more than two dozen employee volunteers. It was already loaded with 25 students and four chaperones from Alexander Hamilton High School in west Los Angeles. They were headed six miles south, beneath the 10 freeway and to the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). On a separate bus, 25 Viacom employees were heading in the same direction from the company’s shiny new Hollywood building, stopping to pick up an additional 17 students from Helen Bernstein High School before rendezvousing at the university.

The Fulfillment Fund, an organization that focuses on orienting high-risk students toward college, was way ahead of both groups. They’d set up a unique tour: a campus-wide scavenger hunt for groups of students and volunteer mentors to navigate together. What’s the name of the campus bookstore? Which year was the arts building dedicated? Which years did USC football win the Rose Bowl? Four versions of the hunt helped to disperse the laughing, giddy students across the hot campus and avoid overcrowding at any one site.

Among the Viacom and Paramount volunteers were seven USC alumni and at least two graduates of Hamilton High School. Site captain Lori Nakama, a director of creative services for digital and television distribution in home media who was participating in her seventh Viacommunity Day, was among them.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” she said. “I love getting to work with people in the company that I don’t normally get to talk to. We’re so busy here that, a lot of times, I don’t leave my desk. So I don’t get to meet somebody who works in theatrical, or in finance, or in theatrical finance. So at Viacommunity Day, you not only are building a community within the community, but a community within the company.”

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Spike TV to Become Paramount Network in 2018 as Viacom Executes Core Business Strategy

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The Paramount Network will launch in the first quarter of 2018, adding a premium entertainment channel to Viacom’s portfolio and executing a core component of the company’s strategic shift under new CEO Bob Bakish. The new net will carry the very best of Spike TV – which Paramount Network will replace – along with high-quality scripted series that will appeal to a broad and diverse audience.

“Our mission is to establish Paramount Network as a prime destination for premium storytelling,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT. “From Alicia Silverstone as a trailblazing independent working mother in the 1970s to Michael Shannon as an FBI negotiator during the Branch Davidians dramatic standoff and siege, Paramount Network will be the home to compelling stories, unforgettable characters, and high quality production with a distinctive global appeal.”

We have three-quarters of a year until the new property drops onto the airwaves, and a lot more details will emerge between now and then, but here are three things we know right now about Paramount Network:

1) Paramount Network will be a destination for premium storytelling

The Paramount Network’s launch date announcement itemized an impressive roster of scripted series that will roll out in the channel’s first quarter.

Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari will star in American Woman, a 1970s drama about family and independence in a feminism-infused landscape. Heathers creates comedy anthology out of the 1988 film of the same name. Waco will transport us back to the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound with an entirely fresh perspective. And I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. is the latest in the acclaimed “I Am” documentary series from filmmaker Derik Murray.

While the already-announced slate is impressive, the possibilities for future franchises are enormous, particularly given the net’s relationship with Paramount Pictures. “Paramount Network is going to support and develop with Paramount,” Kay told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) in a wide-ranging interview. “Whether we make prequels or sequels to franchises that are Paramount movies or we develop our own stuff that becomes Paramount features, the same thing goes for Comedy Central and MTV — they’re in the movie business with Paramount.”

Kay hopes to establish a pipeline that supports eight premium scripted shows in any given year. “That’s a big number in this world we live in today and Viacom seems very willing to support that and help us build to that,” he said.

2) Your favorite Spike stuff isn’t going anywhere

Spike has become a destination for premium unscripted programming, with the full-throttle feel-good Lip Sync Battle joining longstanding network staples Bar Rescue and Ink Master, and all three will migrate to Paramount Network.

Spike, with its deep HD penetration and web of global outposts, was the ideal Viacom property to evolve into the Paramount Network. And, as Kay told THR, while Spike tended to still be viewed as a men’s channel, the iconic Paramount brand carried enormous gravity among fans.

“There is nothing negative in the consumer’s mind about the Paramount name,” Kay told THR. “Older people know The Godfather; some remember the Sherry Lansing years. Younger people know Transformers and Mission Impossible. Those are the franchises they identify with the Paramount name. I think it has a tremendous amount of value and sets a really high bar about premium in the consumer’s mind and it’s up to us not to screw that up.”

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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.

Snoop Dogg, Flo Rida Introduce Airy New Hollywood Home for Eight Viacom Brands

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom’s new West Coast headquarters opened last night in a raucous cascade of music and optimism, uniting the creative forces of eight major brands in a soaring, aspirational space at the heart of Hollywood.

“This new Hollywood facility reinforces our presence in the world’s entertainment capital, connecting us more deeply with the creative community and bringing inspiration for our employees, who help us deliver world-class entertainment and unforgettable stories to our audiences every day,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “We wanted to create a space that encourages collaboration, creativity and innovation, and gives creators and employees the tools they need to do their best work.”

Bakish shared a huge stage at the launch party, addressing hundreds of employees between performances by Flo Rida and Snoop Dogg (posing as DJ Snoopadelic), star of VH1’s hit Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party and executive producer of MTV’s Mary + Jane. Deadline, Hollywood Reporter and Variety all posted vivid dispatches of the wild outdoor scene.

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: A general view of atmosphere during the Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening on January 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Viacom) Read More

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Guests attend the Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening on January 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Viacom) Read More

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Shari Redstone, Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Viacom, Inc attends the Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening on January 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Viacom) Read More

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Rapper Snoop Dogg performs at the Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening on January 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Viacom) Read More

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Rapper Flo Rida performs at the Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening on January 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Viacom) Read More

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: Atmosphere at the Viacom Hollywood office grand opening on January 26, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Maury Phillips/Getty Images for Viacom) Read More

Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Viacom Hollywood Office Grand Opening
Stuart Stuart

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 26: (L-R) Rapper Flo Rida, Viacom Vice-Chairwoman Shari Redstone, Director and Cheif Liason Mayor's Office of Film and Television Production Kevin James and Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish attend Viacom Hollywood Offic… Read More

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History Echoes and Present Zooms at Nick’s New Burbank Studio

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In a rousing ribbon-cutting attended by Viacom executives and the real-life embodiments of SpongeBob and Squidward, Nickelodeon opened a vast expansion of its Burbank studio earlier this month, planting a modern and well-appointed workspace for 700 employees at the heart of one of the world’s entertainment capitals.

“The opening of our new offices in Burbank is a significant moment for Nickelodeon,” said Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami. “We are ushering in a new era of creative excellence and increased collaboration for everyone who works here. Since we first planted our flag on the West Coast in the early ‘90s, Nickelodeon in Burbank has been a beacon to the creative community, and our new complex now signals our increased commitment to giving our creators and employees the very best environment and resources to be successful.”

(L-R) Actor Benjamin Flores Jr. from Game Shakers, voice of SpongeBob SquarePants Tom Kenny, Mayor of Burbank Jess Talamantes, President of Nickelodeon Cyma Zarghami, President and CEO of Viacom Inc. Robert Bakish, Vice Chair of the Board Shari Redstone, voice of Patrick Star Bill Fagerbakke, and actor Cree Cicchino from Game Shakers attend the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the Grand Opening of Nickelodeon's State-of-the-Art Complex on January 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

(L-R) Actor Benjamin Flores Jr. from Game Shakers, voice of SpongeBob SquarePants Tom Kenny, Mayor of Burbank Jess Talamantes, President of Nickelodeon Cyma Zarghami, President and CEO of Viacom Inc. Robert Bakish, Vice Chair of the Board Shari Redstone, voice of Patrick Star Bill Fagerbakke, and actor Cree Cicchino from Game Shakers attend the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the Grand Opening of Nickelodeon’s State-of-the-Art Complex on January 11, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

The more-than 200,000-square-foot space expands upon Nick’s adjacent legacy studio with room to host more than 20 show productions, including smash hits The Loud House, SpongeBob SquarePants and Shimmer and Shine.

The building distills the essence of Nick’s kid-centric brand into a grown-up workspace dotted with customizable work stations and ample collaborative spaces. Archival libraries warehouse the brand’s deep well of iconic work, while rotating galleries showcase the best of contemporary artists’ efforts from both inside and outside of the company. Threaded throughout the five-story space is an 88-seat screening room, voiceover studios, a café, and rooms dedicated to fitness, music and gaming.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony To Celebrate Grand Opening…
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony To Celebrate Grand Opening…
Stuart Stuart

attends the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to celebrate the Grand Opening of Nickelodeon's State-of-the-Art… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Stuart Stuart

Nickelodeon Animation Studio, Burbank, CA. Photo: Bruce Damonte/NICKELODEON© 2016 Viacom Internation… Read More

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VIMN Velocity Is International Media Brand of the Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The 27th M&M Global Awards, held in London last week, are a pretty big-deal event.

How big? Ask Viacom International Media Networks President Bob Bakish.

“The M&M Global Awards are the Media, Marketing & Advertising event in the UK,” he wrote in a note to employees earlier this week.

The occasion for Bakish’s note was simple: to congratulate the Viacom Velocity International group for taking International Media Brand of the Year at this hugely important event.

The Viacom Velocity Team Poses With Their M&M Global Award for International Media Brand of the Year

The Viacom Velocity Team Poses With Their M&M Global Award for International Media Brand of the Year

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VIMN Stays on the Move With Mobile

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Mobile moves the world lately. Or stops it – you can barely walk down a New York street anymore without getting stuck behind an iPhone-gazing sleepwalker stopping up pedestrian traffic. But it’s tough to blame them – there’s just so much good stuff to see that it can be hard to look up.

It’s not going to get any easier as more and more creators turn their focus to mobile, a continuous dynamic process that reaches a networking crescendo each year at the Mobile World Congress, where more than 100,000 attendees see what’s keeping people on the move, now and in the future.

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