Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish appeared on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street yesterday, joining co-host David Faber from backstage at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference.
“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution,” Bakish said, before detailing the company’s progress ramping up its studio production business, expanding its digital presence, improving affiliate relationships and revenue, and adapting Viacom to an increasingly digital landscape.
“My job is to move Viacom forward, turn it around, evolve it, make sure it’s a vibrant company for the future to benefit our shareholders, our employees and all our partners, that’s job one, that’s what we’re doing,” Bakish said.
Here are a few highlights of the conversation:
“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution”
“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution. And on the turnaround side, we’ve had a lot of progress on distribution, and on the evolution side – which is really where this fits – we’ve announced recently that we’re ramping up our studio production, including on our flagship brands, on MTV and Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and that’s about getting those brands represented in third-party platforms, so that consumers who might not have a full bundle still has access to these brands, still think of them in their entertainment experience, and by the way, could be promotion to bring people into a bigger bundle.”
Viacom is increasingly Over The Top
“[Philo – which includes Viacom – is] a low price point, entertainment skinny bundle delivered via OTT. … AT&T Watch is essentially that too. There’s no broadcast, there’s no sports in there. It’s all entertainment product. It’s a limited selection, so we think there’s more to come, and in fact in every MVPD cable renewal or extension deal we’ve done in the last year and a half, it includes provision that we’ll be added to any OTT or skinny bundles that they have, so it’s more product to come.”
Delivering an evolution
“From the beginning, back to November of ’16, my focus has, was and continues to be running this company, moving it forward, delivering a turnaround, delivering an evolution. And on the turnaround we’ve got proof points on U.S. distribution, where, by the way, we have sequentially improved our distribution revenue every quarter this fiscal year. We’ll have growth in the fourth quarter, the quarter we’re in right now, and we’ll have growth in 2019. We’ve improved our audience shares. We’ve tremendously turned around Paramount.”
The financial picture improves across Viacom
“We’re focused on putting points on the board. We are. Coming out of the third quarter, I think we started to get some recognition on that. Coming out of our fourth quarter, when we deliver not only sequential improvement in domestic affiliate, but growth in domestic affiliate, I think we’ll get some respect for that. When we talk about the numbers that Paramount’s delivering, I think we’ll get some respect for that. And you don’t know what the catalyst to turn [the stock price is], but we have had a real change in sentiment.”
Viacom evolves into a multi-platform global entertainment company
“The fundamental thing we need to do is shift the narrative. People look at us, and they say, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re a domestic pay TV company,’ and the reality is, that’s wrong. We’re a multi-platform global entertainment company. And that’s why this evolution point, building these new revenue streams, whether it’s studio production, our Advanced Marketing Solutions business, our advanced ad business, which, the strategy is to use that to more than offset any decline on call it the traditional side, that business is growing over thirty percent. You’ll see that business grow, on a percentage basis, accelerate in ’19.”
Earlier in the morning, Bakish also appeared onstage at Communacopia. You can listen to his full question-and-answer session here.
LAS VEGAS, NV – APRIL 25: Jim Gianopulos speaks onstage during the 2018 CinemaCon – Paramount Pictures special summer presentation held at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace on April 25, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos appeared last week at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2018 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles. In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, he elaborated on the multiple levers the studio’s new management team has activated to drive Paramount’s renaissance: tightening synergies with Viacom’s media networks, strengthening relationships with popular streaming services, building out Paramount Television, building up the consumer products business, and more deliberately monetizing the studio’s deep library. And it doesn’t hurt that Paramount is churning out great movies.
The excerpts below portray a studio in the midst of an awesome transformation. Listen to the full interview here.
Paramount is in a renaissance
“About the culture, I think people do feel that Paramount is in a renaissance and they are part of it and they feel engaged in that. We’ve also extended deals that were expiring – new five-year exclusive deal with Hasbro, which brought us across the Transformers properties, but also has properties like Dungeons & Dragons and Micronauts and many other very popular properties and IP that they are very deeply engaged in producing. We extended our deal with J.J. Abrams, who is arguably one of the most talented people in the movie business and the television business, and also extended a new deal with David Ellison to provide some of our biggest tent-poles like Mission: Impossible and now Top Gun and others, and as well as Terminator, a franchise that he owns. So, you add to that Jerry Bruckheimer and others, so I feel really confident that the team that we have on the executive side and the team that we have on the creative and production side externally that we have ongoing relationships with Leo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese and others will enable us to continue putting together a great slate.”
Making movies for someone or for everyone
“And I think you’ve heard me say and it’s now a longstanding tradition even when we had at Fox, which is make it for someone or make it for everyone. And that in itself is a principle that has guided us so that even recently where we had films like A Quiet Place, which was a very modestly budgeted, originally a thriller horror movie that broke out and did $340 million and a little movie like Book Club, which was – had a very distinct audience of older women. We bought it for $10 million and it made $70 million. And then, of course, the movie for everyone, which is Mission: Impossible that has now surpassed all the prior films and continues to head toward $775 million or more million dollars worldwide. So, the current slate, we’re very confident in.”
Uniting across Viacom
“…[Viacom CEO] Bob Bakish and [Non-Executive Vice Chair of the Viacom Board of Directors] Shari [Redstone] have been very focused on uniting those elements of the company across all of Viacom. … So, we have films like Nobody’s Fool, which is a Tiffany Haddish movie that’s in concert with BET. Similarly, a film called What Men Want, which is a play on the original What Women Want, one of our films, which will be done again with, with BET. Dora the Explorer live movie, which we’re doing with Nickelodeon, as well as an animated movie we’re doing with them. So we’re harnessing all the value and potential and capabilities of the Viacom labels to drive – both to define our slate in the branded area and also to promote our big tent-pole films as well. What they did, for example, on Mission: Impossible was a massive global campaign putting all the resources of the Viacom brands, and particularly internationally MTV, which is very well-situated, as is all of Viacom and there are 3.8 billion homes.”
“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-reviewedMission: 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.
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.
Viacom posted strong second quarter 2018 earnings this morning, outperforming projections with significant gains in both adjusted operating income and adjusted earnings per share as the company accelerates its pivot from stabilization and revitalization to growth.
Double-digit gains across all international Media Networks revenue streams, Paramount Pictures’ return to profitability, ratings increases at key flagship networks, significant benefits from cost savings, further diversification into live events and other adjacent businesses, and an increased focus on next-generation platforms and solutions all set Viacom on a trajectory toward a full fiscal year of growth.
“Viacom continued to accelerate progress against its strategic priorities, delivering improvements across key metrics in the quarter,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “Our flagship brands increased audience share among important demos for the fourth consecutive quarter, and we saw sequential improvements in domestic advertising and affiliate revenue performance. Internationally, Viacom continued its winning streak, achieving double-digit revenue and profit gains in the quarter while expanding its global footprint through new channel launches and innovative mobile distribution deals across Europe and Asia. Our cost transformation initiatives are well under way; we anticipate more than $100 million in cost savings in fiscal 2018, and now expect over $300 million in run-rate savings in fiscal 2019 and beyond.
“At Paramount Pictures, turnaround efforts have firmly taken hold as the studio improved margins and returned to profitability. This month’s outstanding box-office performance of A Quiet Place, the first film produced and released under the new team at Paramount, is a clear sign of our progress.
“Viacom also took strides to advance its participation into next generation platforms and solutions. We continued to benefit from growth in the vMVPD space, delivered revenue gains in Advanced Marketing Solutions, and significantly increased original content production through Viacom Digital Studios to drive off-linear consumption. Additionally, we continue to diversify into adjacent businesses by building on our live events strategy with upcoming tentpoles including Comedy Central’s Clusterfest, the BET Experience, Nickelodeon’s U.S. debut of SlimeFest and our first-ever VidCon.”
Viacom’s core business continues to strengthen
Improved performance throughout Viacom’s core business – domestic and international Media Networks and Paramount Pictures – allowed the company to meet or beat guidance on key metrics year-over-year for the quarter, producing five percent adjusted operating income growth and a 16 percent jump in adjusted earnings per share.
Domestically, both advertising and affiliate revenues increased. Viacom’s flagship brands (Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network), grew audience share year-over-year for the fourth consecutive quarter, while the company continued to hold the top share of basic cable viewing in key demos, including adults 18-34, African-Americans, and kids 2-11. BET grew year-over-year ratings and share by double digits for the third consecutive quarter, while VH1, CMT and TV Land notched year-over-year growth in audience share and ratings. MTV’s programming resurgence continued, with a third straight quarter of year-over-year primetime ratings growth led by Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, which, with 10 million viewers on its opening weekend, was the biggest unscripted cable premiere since 2012.
Viacom International Media Networks is on pace for another record year after posting double-digit increases in profitability, as well as across all revenue streams.
Paramount Pictures returns to profitability
After notching a $75 million year-over-year improvement in adjusted operating income under its new management team, Paramount Pictures raised the curtain on the third quarter with the release of smash hit A Quiet Place. The film rode overwhelmingly positive critical response and deft marketing to the studio’s best opening since 2016 and the second biggest domestic opening so far this year, earning more than $200 million in its first three weeks alone on just a $20 million production budget. Additionally, the studio’s Paramount Television production business anticipates $400 million in revenues this year. Behind these and other catalysts, Paramount expects meaningful improvement to its full-year adjusted operating income for the full fiscal 2018.
Viacom is aggressively increasing its digital output on next-generation platforms
Anchored by 850 million social media followers, the newly formed Viacom Digital Studios is poised to create more than 600 hours of short-form original content this year. This quarter alone, social video views shot up 70 percent (to 4.3 billion), and domestic minutes viewed increased by 78 percent (to 4.7 billion minutes) year-over-year.
The addition of Nickelodeon’s Noggin app to Amazon and a renewed agreement that adds more Viacom content to Snap’s programming slate, in addition to recent and forthcoming mobile deals, will continue to expand the reach of Viacom’s increasing volume of on-the-go-content.
Growing ad revenue through Advanced Marketing Solutions
Viacom today detailed how its Advanced Marketing Solutions (AMS) portfolio would provide even greater opportunity to take advantage of new advertising platforms. The company also broke AMS – which increased its revenue 29 percent in the quarter – into two basic categories:
Advanced addressable video inventory contains advertising units that Viacom can target to consumers, either through its brands’ apps, or by using set-top-box data from its advanced advertising partners, including Comcast, Charter and Altice USA.
Brand solutions is a bundle of consulting, creative services and associated activations that includes social campaigns led by influence marketers WHOSAY, creative integrations with in-house integrated marketing and creative solutions team Viacom Velocity, and experiences at retail stores or Viacom’s growing portfolio of live events.
Viacom live events and consumer products lines continue to grow
In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.
The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.
Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud
Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.
“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.
Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.
A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.
“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”
Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience
Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.
It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shorein the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.
The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.
“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”
Once again, Viacom leads all cable families in total viewership, a full percentage point ahead of its nearest competitor. There’s a lot driving this continued strength, including Nick’s status as the king of kids’ programming, with 12 of the top 20 rated cable TV shows for kids between 2 and 11 airing on one of its networks. Viacom does well in all demos, though – several of our networks combine to make up fully half of the top 20 cable series for viewers 12 to 34.
The charts below spell out these viewership and ratings successes in more detail, but they show the company’s strong position as we report our Q1 2017 earnings today. For more business numbers, check out our Investor Relations page on viacom.com.
South Park, sharp and loud as ever in its 20th season, led all of TV in its time slot among male viewers, while Trevor Noah racked up his most-watched quarter since he joined The Daily Showbehind his biting coverage of the presidential election and beyond.
We could go on, but it’s probably more fun for you to flip through the deck below to see what’s happening with all of our brands, from newly acquired Argentinian giant Telefe to Paramount Pictures to a surging MTV. We’ve also included clips from some of the upcoming projects we’re most excited about. For more business results, visit our Investor Relations page on viacom.com.