Bellator Takes the Fight Online in Nine-Figure Deal with DAZN

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 26: (L-R) Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Gegard Mousasi, Scott Coker, James Rushton, Rory MacDonald, Wanderlei Silva and Lyoto Machida attend the Bellator-DAZN announcement press conference on June 26, 2018 at Viacom in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Bellator MMA)

In recent months, Bellator MMA has crisscrossed the globe, hosting fights for its international fan base in such diverse locations as London (Bellator 200), California (199), Budapest (196) and Israel (188), among others.

Now, the Viacom-owned global combat sports franchise is queueing up fight cards for a totally new destination – online, via a nine-figure deal with international live sports streamer DAZN.

The streaming deal plants an important digital component into Viacom’s ever-expanding live-events business while expanding Bellator’s global footprint and injecting the league with the additional financial resources it needs to expand its roster.

Noting that Bellator had become a “significant revenue generator” since Viacom acquired the property eight years ago, Viacom CFO Wade Davis underscored the importance of live events to the company’s growth strategy.

“Viacom has led the industry in creating iconic, fan-centered events through MTV’s VMAs, the BET Experience that happened in L.A. last weekend, the CMT Music Awards, and Comedy Central’s Clusterfest,” Davis said, speaking at a press conference at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters announcing the DAZN partnership. “Nobody does live events the way we do, with the combination of a focus on brand, talent and sponsors, all expressed across multiple platforms.”

Bellator intends to invest at least some of the proceeds from this streaming agreement into its roster, enhancing the live experience with a dynamic group of fighters.

“This deal will allow the roster to continue to expand, and an expanded roster means bigger fights,” Paramount Network, TV Land and CMT President Kevin Kay said at the press conference. “It means we’ll be able to give our best fighters more opportunities to do what they do best. So more fights that the fans want to see. Everybody wins.”

While MMA fans in 162 countries can already view Bellator events through local television partners, this streaming agreement will add a popular online platform to the mix. DAZN has spent several years steadily building itself into an online destination for sports fans in Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. With the Bellator deal – and a recent agreement that granted DAZN U.S. streaming rights to the World Boxing Super Series – the streamer is set to enter the United States in September. DAZN will also soon expand into Italy.

“On DAZN’s worldwide platform, our fights will be seen live for the first time to new audiences around the globe,” said Bellator President Scott Coker.

Under the agreement, Perform Group-owned DAZN will exclusively stream seven annual fight cards, and will simulcast another 15 that air on Paramount Network. All fights will stream in all DAZN markets.

“It’s simple; fans want to see great fighters in competitive fights so we’ve handed the keys to Scott Coker and his venerable team to go out and recruit even more top-level talent to further stack Bellator fight cards and build on their success,” said DAZN CEO James Rushton.  “With the combination of this investment and our recent announcement to bring more than 30 nights of boxing to the platform annually, DAZN will be a must-have for fight fans in the U.S.”

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Viacom Activates Powerful Studio Model Growth Driver As MTV, Nick Move Into Third-Party Production

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Pinky Malinky is an upbeat teenager who has a lot in common with his peers: he posts rabidly on social media, he hangs out nonstop with his two best pals, and he constantly must navigate the social pressures of school and life. But there’s one very important thing that will make Pinky unique among Nickelodeon characters (besides the fact that he’s a talking hotdog): when his show debuts later this year, fans will find him exclusively on Netflix.

But Pinky won’t likely be alone for long – across Viacom’s ecosystem, brands are digging into their vaults to identify intellectual property that could be an ideal fit for a digital or linear programmer outside of Viacom. MTV, under the banner of MTV Studios, is for the first time cracking open its rich, 35-year archive to offer its iconic, youth-centric content – Real World, Daria, Aeon Flux, the Emmy Award-winning Made, just to start – in new or reimagined form on non-Viacom platforms. In addition to strategically tapping the 200 titles in its massive library, MTV Studios will churn out new ones, including, to start, The Valley (working title), about a group of friends growing up in the U.S.-Mexico border town of Nogales, and MTV’s Straight Up Ghosted, in which victims of this mobile-age abandonment will confront their disappearing former intimates.

Similar efforts will follow at other Viacom networks.

This studio model – under which Viacom will license and produce new episodes of fully owned content for third parties – will present an enormous growth opportunity, as the company’s brands increasingly feed the insatiable global demand for premium content.

Viacom is uniquely positioned to do this. The company’s voluminous original content libraries house an enormous number of beloved properties that speak deeply to their fans. Its archives stretch back decades – and, in the case of Paramount Pictures, more than a century. Its properties resonate deeply with high-value audiences: kids (Nickelodeon), African-Americans (BET), youth (MTV), the LGBTQ community (Logo), and more. Viacom’s global footprint means that those audiences stretch across cultures and borders. As the first port-of-call for creatives pitching shows tailor-made for these audiences, Viacom’s brands are keenly aware of what is in the market. Its production expertise is second to none.

And even as these sorts of deals multiply, Viacom will retain all consumer products rights for all properties, fueling the company’s increasingly robust consumer products operation.

The possibilities for third-party licensing and production are practically limitless. Pinky Malinky – which will feature Nick branding at the show open and embodies Nickelodeon’s patented spirit of fun and surprising stories and characters – is just the first of up to a dozen properties that the brand is positioning for reboots or co-productions this year alone.

Valen-time to hang out with my best friends! ❤️❤️ @babs_buttman @jj_james0n

A post shared by Pinky Malinky (@pinky_malinky) on

“Proliferating distribution platforms create incremental demand for VIAB’s [Viacom’s] content because high-quality branded content is one of the most valuable forms of differentiation for competing distribution platforms,” Needham declared in a bullish March analysis of the company’s stock. “VIAB’s film and television libraries represent differentiated, globally scalable, long-lived content.”

Take, for example, Jack Ryan, the Tom Clancy action hero who fought his way through five Paramount Pictures films, starting with 1990’s The Hunt for Red October. The quintuplet of movies grossed hundreds of millions of dollars and still carries strong brand recognition and a built-in fanbase. But while there is no obvious basecamp for Ryan within Viacom’s current brand archipelago, his bulletproof vest is a perfect fit for Amazon Video, which will debut the 10-part Jack Ryan series in August.

This branching out into third-party content production has been subtly underway for some time, both in the United States and abroad. Paramount Television, the production arm of Paramount Pictures that is producing Jack Ryan, has quietly built a $400 million-per-year business from scratch by producing premium content like Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and USA Network’s Shooter.

In May, Viacom International Studios (VIS) united the extensive production capabilities of wholly Viacom-owned Argentinian broadcaster Telefe and majority-owned Brazilian comedy brand Porta dos Fundos with Viacom’s Miami-based production operations, creating a multi-lingual machine that will develop, produce and distribute original content around the world. A matrix of SVOD, pay TV and free-to-air distribution deals will place VIS-produced long-form series (Borges on Netflix in Latin America), cinematic adaptations (Telefe’s Animal on Fox Networks’ platforms in Latin America), telenovelas (Vikki RPM on Caracol Televisión in Colombia), and co-productions (Club 57 on Rainbow Group in Italy and Nickelodeon elsewhere) in diverse markets and maximize the potential of formerly regional or local properties.

These licensing deals will therefore sprinkle tastes of Nickelodeon and MTV and Telefe and other Viacom properties throughout the global content ecosystem, while segmenting the full brand experience for consumers who subscribe to a Viacom linear or digital distributor. Even so, this nascent third-party production is already acting as a powerful growth driver as Viacom diversifies outside of its core television business under President and CEO Bob Bakish.

“Building on the success of Paramount Television and Telefe’s quickly growing production business, we’re going to much more aggressively tap into the huge demand for content and unlock more of our IP and production and creative capabilities to drive incremental revenues from third-party platforms,” Bakish said on Viacom’s second-quarter 2018 earnings call in April. “This isn’t just an idea. … there is a lot of interest from SVOD partners in licensing library properties from MTV and Nickelodeon IP for brand-new interpretations. At the same time, we’re also developing new IP for the sector and have already closed deals for brand-new original Nick IP and animation with third parties and we see more in the pipeline.”

“We’ve Made a Lot of Progress at Viacom” – CEO Bob Bakish Touts Achievements at MoffettNathanson

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Growing viewership, building new management teams, finding efficiencies, delivering content on next-generation platforms. Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat down with Michael B. Nathanson at last week’s MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit in New York City, where they discussed these and other ways that Viacom is strategically positioning itself to thrive in a rapidly evolving media landscape.

“I fundamentally believe we’ve made a lot of progress at Viacom in the last year or so,” Bakish said. “That starts with having a plan and laying it out for our teams, our employees, and quite frankly, the rest of the industry and the financial community. … For the last couple of quarters, we’ve seen consistent share growth, including in the last quarter. And in fact, we’re seeing improvement relative to last quarter and the current quarter we’re in. So that’s clear progress.”

Additional highlights from the conversation are below. Listen to the full exchange here.

Next-generation platforms and solutions are driving a huge potential growth market for Viacom

Viacom Digital Studios, announced late last year and launched in earnest at the recent Newfronts in New York, is just getting going, but has already stoked strong digital consumption, with video views up 110 percent year-over-year last month. This is just one part of a broad suite of digital initiatives – from vMVPD (virtual multichannel video programming distributor) distribution over Sling and DIRECTV NOW to deals with Telfonica (across Latin America), Telkomsel (Indonesia) and other mobile providers – that is positioning Viacom to evolve with its increasingly digital-first fanbase.

“So when we talk about next generation, we’re talking about vMVPDs. We’re talking about OTT (over the top). We’re talking about sort of AVOD (audio/visual on demand), in front of the wall, social, et cetera. And we have initiatives going in all of those spaces. And the reason we’re in all of those spaces is we believe that’s a very powerful complement to what we’re doing in the traditional space and is critical to driving growth.”

New management is driving ratings growth across the core television business

MTV is riding an unscripted boom to 10 straight months of ratings growth under network President Chris McCarthy, while ratings are up at BET behind a scripted programming push and at Comedy Central as Trevor Noah solidifies himself as a major voice in late-night.

“So, I feel good about our trajectory there, and in fact, again, when you met with advertisers and we did dinners with each of the agency holding companies over the last three weeks or so … what we typically heard … was, ‘wow, you guys made a lot of sort of promises and commitments when we saw you last year … And we were somewhat skeptical but it’s really incredible how far you’ve come and seeing these brands and we’re very excited about your upcoming slates,’ as are we, by the way,” Bakish said.

Paramount Pictures’ new management team is turning the studio around…

Under Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, the iconic movie studio has installed a new management team and reoriented its slate so that half of its films are co-branded with Viacom’s media networks. With A Quiet Place – the first film produced, marketed and distributed under the new team – rolling out to more than $300 million in worldwide box office receipts (so far), on a $20 million budget, the studio has plenty of momentum moving into the summer.

“And if you look at Paramount, we have a plan that management is totally bought into that is about, that addresses some of our historical problems and our historical problems were a slate construction that didn’t make sense, was not balanced, didn’t leverage the assets Viacom had and then frankly poor execution,” said Bakish “… look at the branded films, the first one in this kind of era is going to be a BET film shot by Tyler Perry [starring Tiffany Haddish] … That’s a film that we made at a very attractive price point, and it’s going to benefit from the BET brand, and that’s why Tyler came and left a perfectly good existence at Discovery and Lionsgate to unify his content output with Viacom … So we are going to rapidly take share, it’s going to be profitable share and we’re going to combine that with our television business and that’s going to take us back very quickly to a very nice business.”

…while the Paramount TV production studio evolves into a premium content force

With 19 network projects in the pipeline and hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and TNT’s The Alienist stamping the studio’s premium content credentials, Paramount Television is expected to deliver $400 million in fiscal 2018 revenue.

“When suddenly Viacom split with CBS, the TV production went with CBS and therefore we had a kind of naked film-only studio, which is not a good place for a studio to be because very lumpy,” Bakish said. “Television tends to kind of flatten out the volatility year-to-year, as well as, of course add value. … Paramount is rapidly being appreciated as a place that makes hits in television too.”

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“2018 Is About Reinvention” – CEO Bob Bakish on Viacom’s Growth Initiatives

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish sat down with Morgan Stanley media analyst Ben Swinburne at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference last week. On a San Francisco stage in front of hundreds of members of the investment community, Bakish outlined how various growth initiatives in the international, mobile, direct-to-consumer, short-form video and live event spaces will complement Viacom’s existing business lines.

“So, if you think of 2017 really as a period of stabilization, revitalization in the company, as we look forward and we’re already hard at work at this and putting points on the board, 2018 is really more about reinvention and driving the company forward as a growth company in the future,” Bakish said.

Here are a few highlights from Bakish’s talk with Swinburne. Listen to the full conversation here. 

Viacom’s future is mobile

“And then the thing that’s really exciting really longer term, but not much longer term is the mobile space, and that’s the incremental category that will invert the whole argument. In the last quarter, we did a first of its kind deal with Telefónica in Latin America where we licensed all of our flagship brands that are in Latin America to their Movistar Play, the first-of-its-kind deal for them too, so that those services will be available to all their mobile television subscribers. … We’re also in a very interesting conversation in the U.S. right now about bringing our brands to mobile and I believe that will happen in fiscal 2018 as well. And if you can think about all the time spent on mobile and all those devices out there, I think you quickly realize what a powerful growth engine that will be for our business.”

Viacom’s content library is coming directly to consumers

“… later in the year, you’ll hear about the products we’re going to launch that leverages those assets … which we’re going to implement on direct-to-consumer basis in a differentiated way that we believe leverages not only our library assets, but also our ad sales capabilities and its complementary to what we’re doing in MVPD [Multichannel Video Program Distributors] space.”

Viacom’s growth initiatives could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in near-term value

“… we’re actively growing our participation in … the digital-native side, the Consumer Products side and the live events side, think of those as three different tracks, all complementary to the brand and to our financials. We think that is hundreds of millions of dollars of near-term value.”

Every flagship brand will have a live U.S. event

“Again, the events space in this fiscal year, every flagship brand [Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network], will have an events in the U.S. That is something that was not true before. So, that’s Nickelodeon, that’s Comedy Central … So, that’s an important incremental activity and one that consumers and advertisers and for that matter, talent, like.”

Viacom’s relationship with distributors continues to improve

“We’ve got this Advanced Ad product we can bring to the table to increase the value of some of your local avails, and we really did turn a new page,” Bakish said of settling on a deal to return Viacom to Altice. “So, we’re sitting here today in a much better place vis-à-vis distribution. We don’t have any large near-term – any large MVPD deal up in fiscal 2018. And by the way, we’ve been improving our product. … I think people are starting to understand that it’s differentiated and that it is valuable. … And you put those things together both in the U.S. and certainly globally, that will be a growth platform.”

International continues to grow rapidly

“[Viacom International Media Networks] is a business that in the last quarter grew ad sales, affiliate sales, ancillary sales, double-digits. It’s a business that grew the bottom line strong double-digits. And it’s not weighted to any one particular thing, it’s driven by our, let’s call it global or in this case ex-U.S. portfolio of brands, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network and it’s driven by our local cornerstones, which include Channel 5 in the UK, which is an acquisition we did a couple of years ago, which transformed our business there. … That includes our other local cornerstone which we acquired. Last thing I did in International, Telefe, which is the number one broadcaster in Argentina, which is a story in its own way, which maybe we will come back to, but that’s an incredible asset and really makes us – positions us to be a major player in Spanish language content which we have not historically been, but we are quickly becoming. And so, the combination of those global brands and the local cornerstones is what’s driving the growth.”

Viacom Renews Charter Deal, Includes Co-Production and Advanced Advertising Elements

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom and Charter Communications have announced a multi-year renewal and expansion of their partnership, the latest in a string of recent distribution agreements that have expanded consumer options for accessing the media company’s content.

The Charter deal includes co-production of original content via its Paramount Television property and a collaboration around advanced advertising, underscoring Viacom’s commitment to continue evolving its partnerships in the rapidly changing media space.

As part of the agreement, core Viacom networks –  including Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Spike (soon to be Paramount Network), VH1, TV Land and CMT – will be available to all Charter subscribers.

The announcement comes just one day after Viacom and four other major entertainment groups partnered with internet television company Philo to launch an affordable, sports-free entertainment pack, a first-of-its kind offering that fills a gap in the U.S. television landscape.

Earlier this year, Viacom inked a deal with Altice USA – which owns Optimum, Lightpath and Suddenlink systems – that also included advanced advertising components.

Comedy Central Asia Launches Nov. 1

by Todd Phillips, Viacom International Media Networks
South-Park

Photo: Comedy Central

Comedy Central Asia launches on Nov. 1, expanding the network into its sixth continent and furthering Viacom International Media Networks’ efforts to make Comedy Central its third global brand. The channel will target audiences in several Southeast Asian markets and offer the region’s only 24-hour all-comedy programming service. Comedy Central Asia will feature global hits such as The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, South Park and Workaholics, as well as stand-up comedy, live-action sitcoms, sketch comedy programming and Asia-produced comedy titles. Read More