Viacom Announces First Quarter 2018 Results, Accelerates Transformation Efforts

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom released its financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2018 this morning, underscoring the significant progress being made to transform its business amid rapid industry change.

Aggressive moves to expand next-generation platforms and solutions, initiatives to grow beyond TV and film, the launch of a premium content network, strengthened relationships with distribution partners, and the demonstrable success of its Flagship Six strategy all position Viacom for potential growth in the second half of 2018.

“In the quarter, Viacom aggressively drove progress on our strategic plan, delivering improvements in our business and positioning the company for the future,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish. “Viacom’s most-watched portfolio of domestic cable brands grew viewership share in the quarter, led by our powerful flagship networks, which now includes Paramount Network – the biggest and most ambitious network rebrand in our history. Internationally, we continue to deliver double-digit top-line and bottom-line Media Networks gains while launching innovative new partnerships in growth territories around the world.

“Viacom has also made considerable progress in its push to accelerate consumption and monetization on next-generation platforms, achieving substantial growth in worldwide digital advertising revenues, expanding distribution on fast-growing virtual MVPD and mobile services, and ramping up resources and talent at Viacom Digital Studios. Additionally, since the end of the quarter, we continued to expand our digital capabilities with the acquisition of influence marketer WHOSAY and the world’s premier online video event, VidCon. In addition, our strategy to further diversify our core properties off-screen through live events, hospitality and consumer products continues to progress, with the much anticipated Broadway premiere of the SpongeBob SquarePants musical in the quarter, along with new initiatives across our portfolio.

“We remain deeply committed to maintaining strong financial discipline and delivering returns for our shareholders. In the quarter, Viacom continued to improve its leverage profile and we are on track to achieve $100 million in new cost savings in the current fiscal year, and hundreds of millions more in 2019.”

Here’s a closer look at what Viacom is doing to advance its strategic plan and transform the company in the year ahead:

Flagship Six networks anchor Viacom’s spot atop the basic cable universe

Led by its Flagship Six of MTVBETComedy CentralNickelodeonNick Jr. and Paramount Network (which launched after the quarter ended, replacing Spike in the U.S.), Viacom continued to stand at the top of the basic cable universe, holding the largest share of viewers in all key demos:

And the portfolio continued to grow: MTV primetime ratings (+14 percent) and share (+25 percent) both surged, BET recorded a second consecutive quarter of double-digit year-over-year ratings growth (+16 percent), Nick hit its 10th consecutive quarter as the top network among kids, and Comedy Central documented its third straight quarter of increased year-over-year audience share.

Viacom’s other core brands – VH1, TV Land and CMT – recorded year-over-year quarterly ratings and share growth. For VH1, this marked its 10th consecutive quarter of ratings growth, making it the only entertainment net across both cable and broadcast that can make this claim.

Complementing these growing ratings are strengthened affiliate relationships with Suddenlink and Charter, which should help further boost viewership and the advertising revenue that goes along with it.

Paramount Network launches Viacom Media Networks into the premium content space

Paramount Network rumbled to life last month, propelling Viacom Media Networks into the premium content realm and capitalizing on the deep storytelling tradition of Viacom’s iconic Paramount brand. Strong ratings immediately followed, first for Lip Sync Battle: Live Michael Jackson Celebration and then for the premiere of Waco starring Taylor Kitsch. Several more high-profile shows land over the coming months, including a Heathers reboot, American Woman with Alicia Silverstone, and Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner.

Viacom had already been invested in the creation of premium television content, however, under the umbrella of Paramount Television, a production studio seated under Paramount Pictures that tripled revenues in 2017. The studio’s robust content pipeline includes Hulu’s Catch-22, EPIX’s The Contender, TNT’s The Alienist (cable’s number one new drama series), Amazon’s Jack Ryan, and new seasons of USA Network’s Shooter, EPIX’s Berlin Station, and Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.

The turnaround of Paramount Pictures continues

Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos has assembled a new leadership team dedicated to igniting growth. The July release of the next Mission: Impossible film will act as the springboard for a 2019 slate that will include eight films co-branded with Viacom’s media networks. Major production deals with Hasbro, Skydance, and The Fast and the Furious producer Neal Moritz should further bolster a lineup that already includes Bumblebee, Gemini Man, and sequels to Top Gun and World War Z.

Viacom’s push into next-generation platforms accelerates

Yesterday, Viacom announced the acquisition of VidCon, turbocharging a next-generation digital platform strategy that also includes Viacom Digital Studios and recently acquired influence marketer WHOSAY.

This digital pivot has already yielded results, with global video consumption on Viacom’s sites, mobile apps and connected devices surging 38 percent year-over-year during the quarter. As Viacom Digital Studios ramps up to scale and begins distributing unique content across the company’s massive social footprint, Viacom anticipates a doubling of video views and significantly increased watch time on YouTube and Facebook this year.

Viacom will continue to move toward the center of consumers’ digital lives, both internationally – where the company secured a major mobile distribution deal with Telefónica in Latin America– and domestically, where a significant direct-to-consumer experience could be announced later this year.

Viacom’s live events business is growing rapidly

VidCon, which draws more than 30,000 attendees to its flagship Anaheim event and is in the beginning stages of international expansion, adds a powerful arrow to Viacom’s live-events quiver. Every flagship brand will host at least one major live event in the U.S. this year, including Comedy Central’s ClusterFest, which drew 40,000 fans in its inaugural run last year; SpongeBob the Musical, which opened to soaring reviews on Broadway; and The BET Experience, which will continue to attract tens of thousands of fans around the BET Awards in June.

International ad, affiliate and general revenue surge

Viacom International Media Networks continues to crank out steady growth: a 13 percent overall revenue jump, a 17 surge in advertising revenue, and 13 percent growth in affiliate revenues.*

Strong growth in Europe and the integration of Argentinian broadcaster Telefe contributed to these impressive numbers. The launch of Paramount+ in the Nordics, the debut of a free-to-air Spike network in Italy, and a restructuring of our jointly owned Viacom18 property in India should all contribute to further gains.

*All international revenue numbers are adjusted for a five percent favorable impact from foreign exchange

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 Takes Six NAACP Image Awards Across Four Properties

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

With programming that ranged from definitive biopics to animation to riotous unscripted and scripted programming, Viacom scooped up six NAACP Image Awards at this year’s ceremony honoring outstanding performances by people of color.

BET earned a pair of honors for its standout biopic The New Edition Story, while Comedy Central’s animated Legend of Chamberlain Heights took home one statuette. Viacom’s newest network – Paramount Network – brought in two more wins with its beloved Lip Sync Battle, while the Paramount Television-produced 13 Reasons Why added one more.

Take a look at the diverse Viacom properties that impressed this year’s selection committee.

BETThe New Edition Story

  • Outstanding Television Movie, Limited-Series or Dramatic Special
  • Outstanding Writing in a Television Movie or Special – Abdul Williams, Night 2

When The New Edition Story landed last January, it hit as BET’s most-watched premiere in five years, racking up more than 4 million viewers per episode and dominating the social media conversation. Critics loved it.

COMEDY CENTRALLegends of Chamberlain Heights

  • Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance – Tiffany Haddish

Comedy Central’s ribald animated portrait of three benchwarming hoops wannabees returned for a second season in June. Turns out the trio can’t hit the starting lineup in the awards circuit either: Tiffany Haddish, who plays Cindy on the series, out-hustled the guys to win this honor for the year’s best voice-over. Haddish also earned the Outstanding Supporting Acrtress in a Motion Picture honor for her role as Dina in Universal Picture’s Girls Trip.

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Viacom Earns 6 GLAAD Nominations For Out and Proud Storytelling On CMT, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1 and Logo

Inclusive and diverse storytelling are deeply rooted in Viacom’s social ethos, and its shows and movies are frequent contenders at the GLAAD Media Awards, which honor accurate and inclusive representations of LGBT people and issues. This year is no exception—Viacom received six GLAAD nominations for programming on CMT, Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central and logotv.com.

Read more about our 2017 nominations.

Outstanding Drama Series

Nashville – CMT

CMT earned its first GLAAD nomination ever, for Nashville’s story about LGBT characters working in a stereotypically “straight” industry.

Frank Tanki, general manager of CMT and TV Land, says the network’s GLAAD nomination is not only great recognition for Nashville, but also serves as a benchmark for the brand’s overall strategy. “It signals that our modern country strategy is taking root and being noticed in all the right ways,” Tanki explained.

“Creatively, Nashville continues to trail blaze. Last season, we welcomed CMT’s and Nashville’s first-ever transgender character and actress, and also added a new LGBT character as a series regular. On the integrated front, we partnered with Budweiser for a multi-episode arc in which openly-gay singer, Will Lexington, becomes the face of the brand and is spotlighted in a commercial built around the theme of love and acceptance. The integration was well-received by both the LGBT and ad communities, with industry powerhouse, Adweek, proclaiming the integration as ‘ground-breaking.’”

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Corporate, the Demented Desk Job of Your Nightmares Come to Life, Delivers Big Ratings

Comedy Central’s most recent scripted series, Corporate, brings office humor to a dark, depraved place: Hampton Deville. The fictitious conglomerate is one of the largest corporations in the world, known for its multifarious production of goods—ranging from fresh produce to weapons of mass destruction. The company ethos is, on principle, devoid of principle, embodied by morally bankrupt, bagel-throwing CEO Christian Deville (Lance Reddick) to lower-level cogs Jake and Matt (aka “junior executives-in-training,” played by co-creators Jake Weisman and Matt Ingebretson).

The pilot, Facing the Void is a comprehensive look at dreary Hampton Deville, where “aggressive confrontational criticism” is encouraged and cost-cutting for the $5 billion corporation takes the form of “hierarchal” feeding at staff luncheons.

Watch a clip:

Hampton Deville is everything you don’t want to see in a company—either as an employee or consumer—but Corporate is everything viewers want in a dark comedy.

Corporate’s premiere on Jan. 17 was the highest-rated basic-cable prime comedy debut of the 2017-18 programming season. Critics are obsessed with the portrayal of modern-day cubicle carnage, too. Los Angeles Times TV critic Robert Lloyd called the show “clever and cutting” in his review, and Bustle writer Sydney Bucksbaum vouched for its universal appeal. “Despite the fact that I’ve never worked a meaningless job at a giant corporation,” wrote Bucksbaum, “I found myself relating to Corporate in a way that I’ve never felt before while watching a TV show.” IndieWire’s Steve Greene lauded Comedy Central for producing one of the “most fascinating comedic experiments on TV.”

Corporate is at the vanguard of Comedy Central’s strong 2018 lineup. Mainstays Another Period and Drunk History returned earlier this week for a third and fifth season, respectively. Critical favorite Detroiters will return for a second season, as will The Jim Jefferies Show. Jefferies, an Australian comic, joined the network’s slate of biting late night hosts last year, adding his own sardonic flavor to Comedy Central’s trademark political satire. “You’d think I’d stop being surprised at how smart and funny Jim is about everything,” said Comedy Central President Kent Alterman. “I’m just glad we’re still giving visas to people from whatever s***hole country he comes from.”

Watch a clip:

The laughter isn’t limited to linear TV. In February, the network will debut its first ever live daily morning show, You Up With Nikki Glaser, to air on SiriusXM’s Comedy Central Radio. The show will feature Glaser and touring companion, Tom Thakker, as they poke fun at pop culture and “make fun of whatever or whoever deserves it.”

Watch new episodes of Corporate Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.

Trevor Noah Adds “South S***hole” Comic Loyiso Madinga as Africa Correspondent

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Who says South Africa is a S***hole country?

Well, allegedly, President Trump. But that did not stop The Daily Show  host Trevor Noah from digging deeper into his home country’s talent pool to find the show’s newest correspondent:

By dispatching Madinga to localities across Africa and weaving his segments into the global, often Donald Trump-focused broadcast from New York City, The Daily Show further embeds itself into Comedy Central’s rapidly growing international audience with stories that resonate with their daily experience.

“As wild as Donald Trump is for America, many countries around the world have Trumps of their own and since The Daily Show is in many countries, we thought ‘why not give each country a chance to show off their stable geniuses?’” Noah said of the decision to add Madinga to the show’s roster.

His first segment – a look at corruption in the African National Congress under South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma – aired locally in Africa on Thursday, Jan. 11.

The move to localize more content follows a year of torrid international ratings growth for The Daily Show, with a 35 percent surge across 10 nations, including South Africa. As the show’s popularity overseas grows, Comedy Central may look to further bolster programming with local components.

“We’re always looking for ways to take global hits and localize them for regions around the world by adding great local talent, like Loyiso,” said Jill Offman, executive vice president and head of Paramount Channel and Comedy Central International. “This is a pilot, so down the road you may see more internationally based correspondents, making The Daily Show a truly global yet local show for regions around the world.”

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BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1 Are Viacom’s NAACP Image Award Nominees

Tanya Davis contributed reporting.

We’re thrilled to report that Viacom’s brands have just been nominated for a total of 16 NAACP Image Awards across BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1. The awards honor outstanding achievements of people of color and those who promote social justice in the arts, and we couldn’t be more proud of our nominees — see the list below. Winners will be announced at a live ceremony on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 15).

Congratulations to everyone involved for their fantastic work on these programs. Check out our nominated shows and specials and the respective award categories below.

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Comedy Central PSA Takes Action Against Sexual Assault

Comedy Central’s recent short-form video isn’t exactly slapstick humor. It’s a PSA in partnership with national organization #ItsOnUs, which is committed to ending sexual assault on college campuses.

The video features a young, male college student named Guy Davis. It’s narrated by a man with a deep, sonorous voice who deems Davis “Action Guy,” a heroic figure with superhuman powers to prevent sexual harassment, armed with a shield to repel obnoxious bros.

Picture a millennial Clark Kent at a frat house, who overhears an argument between fellow students. He rushes downstairs and finds a guy groping a young female student.

“Stop,” says the woman. “I said stop!”

Action Guy tells the jerk to leave her alone. The narrator makes a reference to “superhuman detection skills,” but Action Guy isn’t having it.

“I just heard her,” he says, looking perturbed. “With my ears.”

The message is obvious, but the PSA spells it out anyway: “Be an action guy: no superhero powers required.”

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Trumped Out? Broad City’s Tr**p-No-More Browser Extender Can Help

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

We may have collectively overdone it.

In the politics-everywhere-all-the-time days of 2017, it can be tough to find a zone of existence in which you don’t encounter the name of a certain commander in chief.

Comedy Central’s Broad City is here to help. After censoring the president’s name throughout the current season of the show, Abbi and Ilana have extended their efforts online, where you can download a Trump-No-More browser extension. Once you add this handy internet supplement, “Trump” will appear as “Tr**p” on pretty much any page you visit.

Here’s how to get started:

How well does the tool work? Well, here’s a screenshot of Donald Tr**p’s Wikipedia page before downloading the extension:

And after:

So there’s a little less politics in your life, and a little more Broad City.

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Klepper’s Fake Fake News Show Debuts Strong As Comedy Central Sees Quarterly Ratings Rise

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: Comedian Jordan Klepper hosts the premiere of Comedy Central’s “The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper” on September 25, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Comedy Central)

Alarmed, self-satisfied, and wielding the confabulating vocabulary of the ever-growing alt-right pseudo-news complex, The Opposition w/ Jordan Klepper came burning out of its Midtown Manhattan bunker with a week one ratings victory.

Viewers eager to, as Klepper promised, “only hear from others what you’ve already been telling yourself,” drove ratings up 43 percent among total viewers compared to the same timeslot a year ago. The show, which follows The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central, averaged 683,000 total viewers in its first full week.

Since that strong debut, Klepper’s conspiracy-laced satire has continued honing its deft assault on the insipid fever dreams masquerading as news on Infowars.com, Breitbart News Network, and similar outlets. And like Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central’s long-running The Colbert Report before him, Klepper is spot-on lampooning his subjects by adopting their personas.

In the aftermath of last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, with Alex Jones busy papering together a schizophrenic collage assigning responsibility for the carnage to a vast deep state conspiracy, an alarmed Klepper reminds us that, “… the mainstream media is wasting our time conducting interviews, verifying sources, and trying to assemble an ‘accurate picture of the suspect’s background.’ Meanwhile, brave online truth-tellers like Infowars and Gateway Pundit are getting to these answers first. They get to their answers so fast, sometimes it feels like they didn’t even have time to think about them.”

Watch:

Flanked by a coterie of absurd citizen journalists, Klepper is pulling off his fake fake news show with a consistency that has impressed critics.

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Jordan Klepper’s “The Opposition” to Resist the Resistance on Comedy Central

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

“Trevor, I’ve been on this show for over three years, peddling liberal talking points day in and day out,” longtime Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper told host Trevor Noah on a recent episode. “But then two months ago, I had two stark realizations: one, I’ve been living in a bubble; and, two, I didn’t have my own show.”

Consider both of those problems solved. The wry Klepper, whose recent Jordan Klepper Solves Guns special demonstrated his capability as a show captain, will star on The Opposition, a new late-night franchise beginning Sept. 25 on Comedy Central.

The Klepper that commands his own Comedy Central pulpit, however will be far from the liberal crusader who trolled pro-gun advocates and Trump supporters (watch his best moments here with your cable or service provider log-in). Instead, he will emerge as a self-certain crusader against the mainstream media, an alternative-media hero for, as Comedy Central describes it, “the America of paid protestors, Obama’s birth certificate, and the certainty that CNN is fake news.”

While the network hasn’t revealed the show’s exact format, you can get a sense of the tone and absurdist humor with this clip of Klepper at a Trump rally in Arizona, where he collects signatures on a petition to impeach Hillary Clinton (who currently holds no public office):

The table-thumping turnabout is, of course, sarcastic. But with so many late-night shows preoccupied with every political rumble out of Washington, Klepper knew he had to position this show differently.

“We have a lot of people [in late night] who are mad at what is happening, and they’re very articulate about their frustration,” Klepper told The Hollywood Reporter’s Lacey Rose. The new show will fill a gap, “showing where that [frustration] comes from and trying to satirize from that place. That’s what will hopefully feel fresh.”

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