“Yellowstone” Most-Watched Cable TV Series of the Summer, Drives Millions of Digital Views

John Dutton (L- Kevin Costner) spends some quality time with grandson Tate (R- Brecken Merrill), but it also leads to a close call.

Paramount Network has hit a goldmine with scripted series Yellowstone, drawing the second-highest number of viewers of any cable TV show in 2018 and racking up more than 20 million digital views.

The Kevin Costner-led drama, which aired its season finale last week, is now the most-watched series not only in Paramount Network’s brief history, but also in nearly 15-year run of predecessor network Spike TV. Yellowstone reached an average of 5.1 million viewers weekly throughout its nine-episode first season, garnering the largest audience for an ad-supported new cable series since FX’s The People Vs. O.J. Simpson in 2016 and earning a 1.47 rating among the coveted 18-49 demographic. Among ad-supported cable dramas, only The Walking Dead has attracted a larger audience in 2018.

On the digital front, the summer hit from the seven-month-old network mirrored Viacom’s larger success across digital platforms. Season 1 content generated more than 12 million streams across Paramount owned-and-operated platforms and received over 9 million transactions on video-on-demand — the highest consumption for any Paramount Network series in channel history.

The success proves the newcomer network made a smart decision by recruiting big-name talent such as Oscar-nominee Taylor Sheridan — who wrote and directed the series — to drive its premium scripted lineup.

“When we launched, we wanted to build two nights of scripted entertainment,” Paramount Network President Kevin Kay told The Hollywood Reporter. “Now we know Yellowstone can anchor one of them.”

Yellowstone follows the Oscar- and Emmy-winning Costner as John Dutton, owner of a prominent and enormous Western ranch that has been passed down through generations in the Dutton family while he tackles the obstacles of keeping up with his adult children and making sure his land remains safe.

The finale of Yellowstone brought in 5.4 million viewers (L+7) and ranked as the top ad-supported episode of scripted television since April. The series accounted for 9 of the 10 largest audiences on ad-supported cable this summer (excluding news and sports). Season 2 production is already in the works with a debut set for 2019. Filming will take place in Utah and Montana, with Costner returning in his lead role.

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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Creative Resurgence Drives Ratings Growth For Viacom’s Adult Brands

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Fresh off a successful launch for the Paramount Network, Viacom’s portfolio of adult channels (Paramount Network plus CMT and TV Land), just wrapped the quarter with strong ratings growth – in some cases, the highest in several years, making an essential contribution to the company’s ongoing transformation.

CMT secured its 16th consecutive month of year-over-year ratings growth. TV Land stamped out its best ratings month in more than four years. And Paramount Network debuted its premium content to enormous ratings gains over its predecessor network.

“As we look at how Viacom is performing domestically, there have [been] huge properties and huge networks, and I don’t see that changing,” Frank Tanki, who acts as general manager for CMT and TV Land, recently told Broadcasting & Cable. “We’ve got a lot of support from a lot of the Viacom management team, so I feel good about our future.”

Paramount Network – originals are connecting with new viewers

Driven by the success of the critically-acclaimed scripted event series Waco and anchored by returning hits Lip Sync BattleInk Master and Bar Rescue, Paramount Network’s original series are up 94 percent versus a year ago, with significant increases in both live and delayed viewing versus the prior quarter.

“Our goal this quarter was to introduce the channel to new viewers and begin to establish it as the home for premium scripted series,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, CMT and TV Land, in a recent email to staff.

Paramount Network’s lineup of premium, high-quality series really gets moving this summer with the launch of several highly anticipated new series, including the sweeping epic drama Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner and written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, Sicario, Hell or High Water) on June 20 and American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari launching June 7. Later this summer,  the dark comedy Heathers and Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, from producer, Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, will debut. Carter’s most recent project for the network, TIME: The Kalief Browder Story, garnered a prestigious Peabody Award.

CMT – connecting with fans onscreen and off

Driving the ratings growth at CMT is a pivot toward the unscripted fare that its core fans react to so strongly (like most Viacom networks, CMT has drastically reoriented itself since CEO Bob Bakish took the helm in late 2016). Country music remains front and center, with music series and specials including, CMT Crossroads, and Hot 20 Countdown garnering their highest ratings in several years, while CMT Artists of the Year, nabbed its highest ratings ever.

The network tapped The Hills and Laguna Beach creator Adam DiVello for Music Citywhich documents five scrape-your-way-to-the-top strivers trying to insert themselves into Nashville’s music scene. CMT has a new slate of unscripted originals that will begin rolling out this year, including fan-favorite Wife Swap. With the hugely popular scripted hit Nashville wrapping up its sixth and final season in July, this unscripted slate provides a clear path forward for CMT.

“So these are the kinds of ideas that I think make more financial sense for a network,” Kay told Adweek. “If you pick the right properties, you don’t have to be spending millions and millions of dollars an episode to bring an audience to a channel.”   

With steady ratings growth anchoring the core television business, CMT’s leadership has begun exploring more ways that they can sync with Viacom’s company-wide focus on growing its live events business (all six of Viacom’s flagship networks – BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Paramount Network, and Comedy Central – will host live events this year). Last year’s CMT Music Awards rippled out into a three-day festival in downtown Nashville, and the net plans to expand its CMT on Tour and CMT Next Women of Country Tour.

“There’s so much opportunity in the space,” Kay told Adweek. “We should be in the CMT festival business, [to] which we’re getting very close.”

TV Land – modern pop culture classic series is appealing to more viewers

TV Land’s mix of beloved modern pop culture classic series is connecting with fans. Driven by the strong performance of RoseanneMomKing of Queens and Everybody Loves Raymond, the net ranked as the 15th highest-rated channel on all of ad-supported cable in March.

With momentum building toward the new seasons of Younger and Teachers on June 5, TV Land is likely to continue its tremendous momentum over the summer.

“TV Land is just a great workhorse, and I think that there is still growth for our two originals, Younger and Teachers,” Tanki told Broadcasting & Cable. “Younger this past summer is coming off its highest season ever, which in a multi-season franchise is really exciting. Teachers is another really hysterical series that we want to get out there. So for TV Land, it’s a little bit of if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

Paramount Network Makes Noise with Strong Ratings, NASDAQ Bell Ceremony

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Paramount Network burst from the ashes of Spike TV last week with sizzling ratings and a clamorous opening bell ceremony at the NASDAQ stock exchange.

Ratings and viewership soared 93 percent over Spike’s previous quarter in Paramount Network’s first full week, led by holdovers Lip Sync Battle and Ink Master, and supercharged by original series Waco, which hit as the highest-rated drama series on ad-supported cable in nearly half a year. When Lip Sync Battle: Live Michael Jackson Celebration ushered the network to life on Jan. 18, the program ruled its basic cable timeslot, topped social media for the night, and drew an additional 4 million YouTube views.

The following week, Paramount Network President Kevin Kay joined Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and the stars of Waco to introduce the net’s dramatic six-part retelling of the 1993 federal government siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Texas.

Viacom and Paramount Network executives joined talent for the six-part Waco miniseries to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange in New York City on Jan. 23, 2018.

“Working with the biggest Hollywood talent in front of and behind the camera, our mission is to create big and bold content that honors the history of Paramount Pictures’ 100 year-plus legacy of great storytelling,” Kay said just before a shower of confetti erupted along with the stock market’s opening bell. “I truly believe that we are living in the golden age of television right now, and the time is right to capitalize on this moment when the appetite for powerful storytelling and high-quality cinematic production has never been greater.”

Watch Waco’s gripping open, with Taylor Kitsch playing cult leader David Koresh, to see what Kay means by powerful storytelling and high-quality cinematic production:

The series has drawn praise for its acting, its balanced portrayal of both sides of the infamous standoff, and its unvarnished look at the consequences of America’s firearms obsession. Mostly, critics have been pleased with the show’s high quality.

“No sooner did the Spike network change its name to Paramount than the quality of the network’s content suddenly shot upwards,” wrote Adam Buckman in MediaPost.

Which was exactly the point of Viacom’s deliberate evolution of one network into the next. With critical reaction positive and powerful Waco complements hitting Paramount Network’s lineup over the next several months – a Heathers reboot, American Woman with Alicia Silverstone, Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner – ratings should remain strong.

While those series gestate, there are five more installments of Waco to come. Here’s what to expect in the weeks ahead:

Paramount Network Launches, Propelling Viacom Into Premium Content Space

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Paramount Network launches tonight with a special edition of smash hit Lip Sync Battle, propelling Viacom into the premium content universe and building on the century-long storytelling tradition of fellow Viacom property Paramount Pictures.

The launch marks an important business milestone for Viacom, fulfilling a key pillar of CEO Bob Bakish’s strategic plan and cracking open potential for new marketing and advertising partnerships behind a star-studded slate that blends the best of the retiring Spike network with high-quality scripted programming.

The network will rumble to life at 9 p.m. ET with Lip Sync Battle Live: A Michael Jackson Celebration, a showcase of the legendary musician’s hits starring Neil Patrick Harris, Taraji P. Henson, Hailee Steinfeld, Laverne Cox and others.

Paramount Network completes CEO Bob Bakish’s flagship six strategy

The Paramount Network launch culminates a monumental yearlong effort to reorient Viacom under CEO Bob Bakish, consolidating resources under the company’s most iconic brands. The focus around six flagships – Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Paramount Network – is a strategy Bakish had successfully implemented in his decade-long run as head of Viacom International Media Networks.

The strategy has proven successful on the domestic front as well. Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. remain the top kids brands, MTV has ignited a primetime ratings and programming resurgence, Comedy Central completed 2017 with its best ratings week of the year, and BET just completed its 16th year as the top cable network for African-Americans. The last piece was the launch of Paramount Network.

“There’s no better way to better encapsulate Viacom’s strategy change under Bob Bakish than to look at the creation and launch of the Paramount Network,” notes TBI Vision.

Paramount Network launches Viacom into the premium content game, with big stars and great stories

Paramount Network’s premium scripted content will launch Jan. 22, when Waco, co-starring Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch, debuts. Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the 80s classic Heathers will follow later this year.

“The audience has an expectation that there are going to be big names, big stars, great storytelling, great characters, and I think that’s what we have to focus on,” Paramount Network President Kevin Kay told Variety.

Paramount Network opens up tremendous partnership opportunities

The combination of captivating content, huge talent and high production generates enormous interest not just from fans, but also from advertising, distribution and creative partners who want to do business with Viacom.

“All the groups together went out and presented to both the movie studios, to our agency clients, and then to our distributors as well,” recalled Kay when asked how partners have been processing the rebrand. “People understood why we are rebranding Spike as Paramount Network, they’re excited to work with us, and the biggest thing I think that came both on the distribution side and on the ad-sales side was that clients said, ‘we want to be your partners.’”

The best of Spike is coming along

When the tribute to the King of Pop ticks to life tonight, the long-running Spike network will cease to be in the United States, gifting to Paramount Network its top unscripted programs – Ink Master, Bar Rescue, and Lip Sync Battle – plus Bellator MMA.

This mix of legacy unscripted programming establishes the net’s impressive versatility and provides a stable complement to Paramount Network’s still-evolving scripted slate.

“We’ve got scripted dramas, non-scripted in a big premium way, we’ve got scripted comedies, we’ve got docuseries, and we’ve got Mixed Martial Arts,” Kay told Deadline. “If you look around at the broadcast networks, that’s not a bad model to me. On the broadcast networks, you’ve got drama nights, you’ve got comedy nights, you’ve got sports nights. You’ve got a lot of variety for different viewers across a very broad audience. I feel that’s where we want to be.”

Nobodies will also migrate to Paramount Network, from Viacom’s TV Land. There are more original concepts in development, including sketch comedy series Browntown in collaboration with leading Latino-focused digital media brand mitú.

Paramount Network builds on Paramount Picture’s century-long legacy

Paramount Network takes its name from the rich DNA of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, the 105-year-old Hollywood icon whose deep catalogue houses some of the most memorable films ever made, including Titanic, Forrest Gump, and the Godfather films. While Paramount Network and Paramount Pictures will operate separately, their relationship will mirror that of other Viacom properties under Bakish, in which the brands collaborate with the movie studio to maximize the reach of intellectual property.

“There’s a real big need, and there’s a want, a desire, for us all to work together really closely, to both exploit [Paramount Pictures’] library and then to help promote the movies, and then to potentially create some great programs for Paramount Network,” Kay explained.

Paramount Pictures also owns the Paramount Television production studio, which tripled its revenue in 2017 through a steady stream of high-quality content, including the Netflix sensation 13 Reasons Why, Epix’s Berlin Station, and Shooter on USA.

“There is incredible demand for high-quality television content and the reality is, there are not that many places that you can get it,” Bakish said at the at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December, underscoring the importance of Paramount Television.

The Paramount name resonates globally – Viacom offers a network called Paramount Channel in select markets outside of the United States. According to Bakish, it is the largest ad-supported movie channel in the world.

5 Questions With Paramount Network’s Kevin Kay

With the upcoming rebranding of Spike as the Paramount Network, the channel will leverage Paramount’s position as an entertainment icon and aim to be a must-watch destination for premium content. Hear what Kevin Kay has to say about the vision and strategy behind this new network. And be sure to check out their new logo and website, both of which launched today, at ParamountNetwork.com!

5 Questions with Kevin Kay from Viacom Catalyst on Vimeo.

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

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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

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

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

1) Paramount Network will be a destination for premium storytelling

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

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

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

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

2) Your favorite Spike stuff isn’t going anywhere

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

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

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

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Give Back & Get Down with Mack Wilds

by Chanel Cathey, Viacom
(Amy Pinard Photography)

Mack Wilds (Amy Pinard Photography)

Last week, hundreds in the Viacom family came out and gave big at the 4th annual Give Back & Get Down celebration.  Viacom President and CEO Philippe Dauman, Tom Dooley, Chief Operating Officer, and Marva Smalls, EVP of Global Inclusion Strategy, were all on hand to kick off this holiday giving event benefiting our troops and veterans. This year Viacom employees donated winter clothes, over 6,000 DVDs and 20,000lbs of canned goods to benefit AM VETS and United War Veterans Council, two organizations that work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for vets and their families.

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Behind the Scenes, On the Boardwalk with Bellator

by Mark Jafar, Viacom

Fighters Daniel Straus (left) and Mike Corey connect during the Featherweight Seminfinal at Bellator 65 (Photo credit: Bellator.com)

Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk Hall has played host to The Beatles and Stones, Sinatra and Pavarotti, presidents, pageants and performances alike.  But the Prohibition-era seaside arena is perhaps best known for its fights.  Over the past 50 years, the Hall has hosted dozens of professional boxing’s biggest title bouts, bringing names like Tyson, Holyfield, Foreman and Holmes to its marquee.

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