Last night, VH1 broke yet another benchmark at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards, as RuPaul’s Drag Race won its fifth Emmy this year (after racking up four at the Creative Arts Emmys last week) for the category of Outstanding Reality-Competition Program. Drag Race is now the first show in history to earn an Emmy for best reality series and best reality host in the same year. The awards, like Ru’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, are yet another symbol of the show’s enduring popularity, critical acclaim, and cultural impact.
Fans have embraced Drag Race for its universally accessible message of self-love and acceptance – especially in recent years. The show is a beacon of resistance and hope set against a tense political climate; sprinkling glitter and feathers in the face of bigotry.
In light of RuPaul’s seismic sweep, Vanity Fairfilm critic K. Austin Collins underscored how Drag Race, a diverse, controversial and intimate show, has etched its mark on Hollywood and the entertainment industry:
“On a night that was host to what S.N.L. star and Emmy nominee Kenan Thompson called “the most diverse nominees in Emmy history,” it was only appropriate that one award—for outstanding reality-television program—should push the event beyond the usual questions of race and gender.
RuPaul’s Drag Race—the most culturally influential queer show on television, as well as one of the most consistently racially diverse—tackles all of the above, rambunctiously, complicatedly, and at times controversially, but just as often with love.”
Viacom content rolls from screens across more than 180 countries and in dozens of languages, reaching more than 4 billion subscribers. Every single piece of this content is the result of dozens or hundreds or thousands of workers who do everything from directing to producing to lighting to catering to set design – and most of them do not work directly for Viacom; they work for independent companies, vendors that Viacom contracts to execute the particulars of production or logistics or supply delivery.
This enormous footprint presents Viacom with an equally enormous opportunity: to proactively seek out diverse suppliers, echoing the company’s varied programming and strong internal culture of diversity and inclusion.
Under the company’s new supplier diversity initiative, led by Viacom’s sourcing team and its Office of Global Inclusion, the company is doing exactly that, actively forming new partnerships that are broadening opportunities for minority-owned shops while bolstering Viacom’s own business by offering a wider array of creative perspectives.
“When you look at the amount of spend we generate both through media networks and Paramount, it’s an incredible opportunity to diversify our partnership base,” said Viacom Executive Vice President and Global Head of Inclusion Strategies Marva Smalls.
Identifying diverse partners
The first step to diversification was to simply catalogue Viacom’s current vendor pool, a massive undertaking. Aside from changing internal procedures to document whether incoming vendors are diverse, Viacom joined several minority-focused councils that work with certified (meaning the businesses are at least 51 percent minority-owned) suppliers: the women’s business council WBENC, the LGBT business advocates NGLCC, minority supplier group NMSDC, and representatives of people with disabilities and disabled veterans Disability:IN (formerly USBLN). So far, approximately 1,100 of Viacom’s vendors have either self-classified themselves as diverse or fit into the rubric to be certified by one of these organizations.
The reach of these certifying councils is substantial. The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), for example, which claims to represent the interests of more than 1 million LGBT U.S. business owners, which it can connect with Viacom via networking events and access to its deep database.
Viacom’s goal is to form long-term, immersive partnerships with each organization, underscoring for their members the company’s sustained commitment to diversity. Building such a network also creates an echo affect, a sort of street cred where partner companies validate Viacom’s commitment not just to diversity, but to supporting the small businesses that most of these operations are.
“If you have that local production company that says, ‘I’m in business with Viacom, and as a result, that allows me to hire more people for my community and where I’m located,’ ultimately, the community will see that,” said Smalls. “We need to be viewed as a company that’s not just taking up space in the community, but actually taking the time to identify small businesses.”
Viacom is also coordinating with its peers to identify minority-owned businesses. Last year, Viacom co-hosted a networking event with Disney, Time Warner, CBS, NBCU and others, during which minority-owned vendors could meet representatives of many large companies at once.
Sometimes a nudge is all you need
One initial contract with a major corporation can be the catalyst for tremendous growth. “The whole purpose behind vendor diversity is to help put a seat at the table for the new, innovative company who deserves a fair shot,” said Jonathan Lovitz a senior vice president and former director for NGLCC New York (and also a former Logo personality) . “Our partners at all of our organizations that advocate for diverse-owned companies can each point to the day everything changed for a small business because they earned a chance to be seen by an inclusive industry leader like Viacom.”
Take, for example, Jax Media, a New York City-based, minority-owned production shop. The company parlayed a single off-the-air Comedy Central presentation a decade ago into production of multiple series for the network, including hit series Broad City. The company also produces TV Land’s Younger and has collaborated with MTV and Paramount Network.
“We make sure there is an eye toward creating a diverse culture and environment,” said Megan Ring, senior vice president and head of production for Comedy Central and senior vice president of scripted production for Paramount Network and TV Land. “Jax Media’s owner, Tony Hernandez, was just a producer in New York with some great ideas and a different way of thinking. We struck up a relationship and we were willing to take some chances to learn from him, and he was at the same time able to take advantage of access points to Viacom.”
The 70th annual Primetime Emmy® Awards nominations announced this morning included a total of 29 nominations for Viacom-produced programming across linear and digital platforms.
The nods honor VH1’s continued, standout creativity for its groundbreaking reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race, which earned a total of 12 nominations including the 3rd nomination for host RuPaul (who won for the category in 2016 and 2017) and two nominations for the companion series RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked.
Comedy Central’s six nominations include two nominations for The Daily Show, which appears in the outstanding talk series for the first time since Trevor Noah took over as host. Last year’s short form variety winner The Daily Show: Between The Scenes was nominated for the second consecutive year. As well, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences nominated South Park for outstanding animated series for the 17th time ahead of its 22nd season premiere in September.
Paramount Network’s first original series Waco notched three nominations, while Lip Sync Battle earned a nod for outstanding reality series for the third year in a row.
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.
Viacom brands totalled 90 North America PromaxBDA Promotion, Marketing and Design Awards at a gala in New York on June 14.
Nickelodeon (21 awards), Comedy Central (27), the Paramount Network (7), Paramount Channel (6), BET (2), MTV (4), Viacom Velocity (6), Viacom Catalyst (1), Viacom18 (10) and VIMN (5) were widely represented across the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in various categories for domestic and international productions.
Additionally, PromaxBDA honored Debra Lee, BET’s long-time former CEO, with its Lifetime Achievement Award for “her decades of achievement in our entertainment and media industry.”
Congratulations to Lee and to all of Viacom’s PromaxBDA winners and shortlist honorees. Take a look at the full list of winners for each division below:
Following the signing of expansive first-look deals with Tyler Perry and with Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions, Viacom has inked a similar comprehensive development agreement with Broad City stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson. The move, which crosses all Viacom networks and grants first-look rights to television content created or developed by the pair together or individually, underscores the company’s commitment to identifying and forging close relationships with the best creatives in the industry.
“Broad City’s Abbi and Ilana may appear to be aimless and full of hair-brained schemes, but Abbi and Ilana IRL have proven to be stellar creator/writer/performer/director/producers,” said Comedy Central President Kent Alterman. “Their supreme focus on telling new stories, in new worlds, with new talent is nearly scary.”
The expanded partnership further fills out a Comedy Central lineup that was already bolstered by a long-term first-look deal Viacom sealed with Daily Showhost Trevor Noah last month. The agreement includes a Paramount Pictures film adaptation of Noah’s bestselling autobiography, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has repeatedly expressed a commitment to better retaining homegrown talent, and the forming of these expansive cross-brand relationships with three of Comedy Central’s marquee names affirms that dedication.
The more intensive alignment with top talent is not limited Viacom’s current stars, however, as demonstrated by the expansive partnership the company signed last year with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry, granting Paramount Pictures first-look rights to his films and guaranteeing 90 episodes of annual content across BET and other Viacom networks beginning next year.
“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,” Bakish said at the time of the Perry announcement.
Glazer and Jacobson also announced that they will end the hilarious, quirky, two-time Emmy-nominated Broad City with its upcoming fifth season.
Viacom today announced a long-term strategic partnership with Trevor Noah’s Day Zero Productions, substantially expanding the company’s relationship with one of its most talented young stars. The deal grants Viacom first-look rights to all projects developed by Noah and his international production and distribution company across television, feature film, digital and short-form video content.
One of the first projects will be a Paramount Players film adaptation of Noah’s bestselling autobiography, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, propelling the Daily Show host into the broader Viacom ecosystem while reinforcing a key strategy of Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish to more thoroughly mine the company’s ecosystem for cross-brand opportunities.
“Working with the best, most versatile talent in the entertainment industry is a strategic priority for Viacom, which is why we are thrilled to expand our relationship with Trevor and his creative team at Day Zero with this cross-house partnership,” Bakish said. “Trevor’s creative sensibilities and ability to drive the cultural conversation around issues that matter to our young, global audiences make him an ideal partner for Viacom across every screen we serve. We are particularly proud that Born a Crime will be produced and distributed by Paramount.”
Academy Award-winner Lupita Nyong’o will star in the film as Noah’s mother, Patricia. Liesl Tommy, a Tony nominee for her work directing Nyong’o on Eclipsed and a South Africa native, will direct the film.
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 28: Trevor Noah hosts Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” premiere on September 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)
Viacom will also make an investment in Day Zero. “I’ve found a strong and incredibly valuable partnership in Viacom,” said Noah, who has hosted The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Comedy Central since 2015 and is signed to continue hosting the show through 2022. “Our shared vision of bringing diverse cultural conversations and exciting creative projects to the forefront of the entertainment industry and to our constantly expanding audience, continues to strengthen our relationship. I couldn’t be more excited to share Born A Crime with Paramount and the very talented Lupita Nyong’o.”
The expansive partnership with Noah and Day Zero echoes a far-reaching deal Viacom signed with prolific writer, director, producer and actor Tyler Perry last year, granting the company first-look rights to feature films and guaranteeing 90 episodes of new content for BET and other networks beginning next spring.
Born a Crime is the latest project for the rapidly expanding Paramount Players, which collaborates with Viacom flagship brands Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and BET to develop films. The division’s other projects in development include Perry’s The List, starring Tiffany Haddish (who will host MTV’s Movie & TV Awards in June), which will hit theaters in November, and a Dora the Explorer live-action film in development with Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes label for a 2019 release.
Tomorrow, students will lead an extraordinary protest against gun violence and for improved gun safety, a March For Our Lives through the streets of Washington, D.C. and hundreds of other communities across the world. This youth community, marshaled in the wake of the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida, will demand solutions to end the scourge of gun violence and school shootings in America.
Viacom proudly supports these students. On the streets, on the airwaves, on social media and on mobile devices and on every platform that its brands reach, Viacom will amplify these students’ message and their voice, will stand with them as they speak up to unambiguously state that their lives and their safety matter.
Viacom’s wide-ranging support for this student-led movement began in earnest last Wednesday, March 14, when all Viacom networks went dark for the 17 minutes of the National School Walkout, a mass coordinated effort to denounce the inaction and indifference that have accompanied the stubborn persistence of gun violence.
Most Viacom networks went dark during the 17 minutes of the National School Walkout on March 14, displaying this message of solidarity in place of regular programming.
Here’s a deeper look at how Viacom’s brands will be supporting the March For Our Lives:
Seventeen people lost their lives in the Parkland shooting. More than 17 young people die* from gun violence every day in America.
On Saturday, MTV, in partnership with the NAACP and local youth organizations, will send 17 buses of young people from Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, New York City, and other communities suffering from intractable gun violence. The network will complement this on-the-streets effort with live MTV News and Social coverage.
MTV will have plenty of help to bolster the message: singer-songwriter Vic Mensa will take control of the network’s Instagram Stories account, while Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Pusha T, Halsey, Carmelo Anthony and Chloe x Halle will deliver messages of support and encouragement to the marchers.
“Once again young people are at the forefront of driving change,” said Chris McCarthy, President of MTV. Referring to a national network-led study** conducted post-Parkland to analyze teen’s reactions to gun violence, McCarthy continued, “Today’s study revealed an overwhelming 75 percent of teens polled are ‘not going to wait until they are adults to make real political change,’ and MTV is proud to amplify this youth-led activism.”
The MTV study also revealed that 69 percent of teenagers are angry that the government isn’t doing enough to prevent gun violence, and 74 percent believe adults are underestimating young people’s political power.
The main players in Comedy Central’s bustling late-night universe have been demonstrating their support for the students from a variety of different angles. Last night, Comedy Central’s The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper traveled to Maryland to host U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), before an audience of teens, many of whom plan to march tomorrow.
“Change has never in history come from Washington,” Booker said, “it has come to Washington.”
The Opposition Chaperones Democracy: Kids Just Wanna Take Guns also transported viewers into a Baltimore high school, where correspondent Kobi Libii interviewed students who are frustrated and fed up with local gun violence:
Earlier today, Comedy Central released a clip of Trevor Noah discussing the march and the shooting’s aftermath with five students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Parkland shooting occurred.
When The Jim Jefferies Show returns to Comedy Central next Tuesday, the show will broadcast a segment filmed on the ground at the San Diego March For Our Lives rally. Jefferies, who is entering his second season hosting the show, is a long-time champion of reforms to curb gun violence.
From iconic award shows to hilarious late-night programming, from fun kids’ polls to incisive cultural exposés, Viacom’s properties echo across the social media universe. The breadth of this digital-social footprint is on display in the 47 Viacom finalists for this year’s Shorty Awards, an annual celebration of the best in social media.
Paramount Network, Viacom’s newest U.S. channel, debuted strong with a pair of nominations, while Nickelodeon (five nominations), TV Land (three), and Comedy Central (two) also appear in multiple categories. Viacom’s International Media Networks check in with three nominations for their work around the MTV EMAs, while Paramount Pictures, VH1, and Spike (which Paramount Network replaced in the U.S.) each earned one. Viacom itself earned two nominations for the debut of its Hype & Influence series, a video exploring America’s relationship with hip-hop and black culture.
A full list of Viacom’s finalists is below, along with links to details about each nomination and a selection of work.
March Madness has descended upon America, giving sports fans everywhere the chance to apply their basketball acumen to predict who will prevail in the frantic, single-elimination crucible of the NCAA tournament.
The contest, consisting of 64 entries evenly divided between The Trump Conference and the Everything Else Conference, will ask voters to answer a simple question, best summed up by Noah himself:
“What bullshit was the bullshittiest bullshit of the last year?”
Indeed, there are a lot of good choices. On the Trump side, the president’s claims that his was the largest inauguration crowd in history, that rampant voter fraud cost him the popular vote, that President Obama tapped his Trump Tower phone lines, and that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the August rally in Charlottesville take the top seeds.