Meet Viacom’s Nine 2017 Cynopsis Rising Stars

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

They work in marketing, communications, programming, or gaming. They’re planted around the organization, helping to drive some of our most prominent networks and divisions: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, CMT, TV Land, VH1, Logo, Viacom Velocity. And though some have been here for years, they’re all just getting started in promising careers. They are the nine young Viacom standouts who earned recognition as Cynopsis 2017 Rising Stars.

This year’s awards follow a strong 2016 showing for Viacom, when six employees across a variety of brands were acknowledged. The nine honorees this year are Kelly Andersen, Ned Berger, Katrina Bucu, Rachel Burns, Kassie Deng, Marisa Mazart, Brielle Urssery, Jacqueline Vinci and Alexandra Woog.

Cynopsis will honor these young standouts at a reception on September 15 in New York City. Here’s a bit more about how each of them is forging their career at Viacom:

KELLY ANDERSEN – MANAGER, COMMUNICATIONS FOR MTV, VH1 AND LOGO

What she does: My days tend to include writing press releases, communicating with media outlets and escorting network talent to press appearances.

Tenure: Six years

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star:  My coworkers had secretly submitted me so I thought it was a spam email and I almost deleted it.

What helps her fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: I’m passionate about the work we are doing at MTV, VH1 and Logo, and with so many exciting things coming down the line, organization is key. I like to write everything down and map out a timeline to reach publicity goals for each series.

What is the most exciting thing happening with her team right now?: We are all prepping for VMAs!

What she is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I have no idea what to expect so I am just happy to be there!


NED BERGER – DIRECTOR, CONSUMER MARKETING, NICKELODEON

What he does: I’m with the Consumer Marketing department at Nickelodeon where I’m responsible for marketing for our tentpole events, including overarching strategy, off-channel execution, influencer marketing, content partnerships, and innovation projects.

Tenure: Four years

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star: I was thrilled to find out I would be receiving the award. To be recognized by my bosses and by Cynopsis for the work that I do is a real honor.  

What helps him fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: A big part of my job is being a brand steward. Nickelodeon is an incredibly strong brand and I work to provide kids with creative and fun ways to experience the brand. Our tentpole events (like Kids’ Choice Awards) truly bring the Nick brand to life, and the marketing of those events brings together brand strategy, creative innovation, and business goals.

What is the most exciting thing happening with his team right now?: We are going to be part of the team working on The Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the newest version of our animated series. We’re all excited to work on such an iconic property and to be part of its reinvention for a new generation of fans.

What he is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I’m most looking forward to meeting bright talent from around the media and entertainment industries and forging new connections and relationships.


KATRINA BUCU – MANAGER, INTEGRATED MARKETING, VIACOM VELOCITY

What she does: I strategically develop and pitch multi-platform, integrated marketing programs across MTV, VH1 and Logo aligned to tentpoles, programming and editorial initiatives in order to drive advertising revenue.

Tenure: Since I graduated from college a little over five years ago. I like to say I’m Viacom born and raised.

On being named a Cynopsis Rising Star: It was such a great way to start the week on Monday morning and I immediately told my friends and family! I was honored that my team had nominated me for this award and it’s an amazing feeling to have your work recognized, not only by your team, but by the industry.

What helps her fit Cynopsis’ description of a rising star as someone who has “proven success in aligning strategic objectives with end goals?”: Key parts of Integrated Marketing include storytelling, negotiation and organization. In this role, I have been able to craft a marketing story that sells big ideas both internally and externally as the concepts need to match the objectives of the channel and brand to create an organic fit, building client relationships for key partners like Taco Bell, P&G and more.

What is the most exciting thing happening with her team right now?: The return of TRL! It was a key program during my teenage years. I’m excited for how it will be reinvented for today’s generation and how we can weave our advertising partners into the pop-culture platform.

What she is most looking forward to about the awards reception: I’m excited to celebrate with my fellow Viacom Velocity peers as they’re all deserving of this honor and it has been a pleasure to work alongside them. I’m also looking forward to meeting the other honorees and to learn from our shared passions and successes.

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MTV’s Reinvention Mines Heritage as TRL Returns

For my 11th birthday, my parents bought me a 13-inch, white Panasonic TV/VCR set. I was most excited about the fact that it was white, and therefore girly, but also the fact that it gave me access to the exclusive club of sixth grade girls at my school who could invite their friends over to watch MTV.

My neighbor Lauren had been the first of my friends to enter this coterie when her older brother moved out and gave her his TV. I skip my bus stop and get off at her house, raid the fridge for Pepperoni lunch-ables, Dunkaroos and Cherry Coke, and head to her basement playroom, where we’d turn the TV straight to TRL and watch Carson Daly countdown the day’s 10 hottest music videos.

On a typical spring afternoon in 2002, we’d watch the same *NSYNC video for the fourth time that week, along with hits from Blink 182, Christina Aguilara, Britney Spears, Shakira, Michelle Branch, Brandy and Kylie Minogue. Sometimes we’d call in our request, but usually we’d just try to guess which one was coming next. Most of the time, we were right.

Check out this TRL throwback:

By the time my new TV allowed me to form my own girls club to watch TRL, Carson Daly had stepped down as host, and we were introduced to a downright dreamy group of regular “VJs” (video deejays, something I learned much later in life). My friends and I crushed hard on Damien Fahey, and wanted to look just like the trendy, chic Vanessa Minnillo.

Now, MTV is bringing back this iconic video countdown show, which ran for 10 years between 1998 and 2008. TRL’s revival is set for October 2, to be broadcast from a renovated version of its iconic Times Square studio.

TRL will be different than the one I remember— the video countdown model and audience request integration will stay, but the new show yanks the format into the post-2008 world of social and interactive media, with a mélange of linear, social and digital dimensions (expect some TRL Snapchat filters and daily updates on Instagram and Twitter).

A new generation of VJs will rotate through the studio, including, as of now, D.C. Young Fly, Erik Zachary, Amy Pham, Tamara Dhia and Lawrence Jackson. Learn more about the hosts here.

The revival of this flagship show is a logical move for the network as it shepherds in a new era of MTV that is remarkably similar to the one my friends and I would watch on that 13-inch TV in my bedroom.

With revivals of My Super Sweet 16 (a reality show I watched religiously as a teen, which I wrote about here) and Fear Factor (NBC’s gruesome game show, re-invented with a millennial twist), as well as a new show called Siesta Key (created by the same producers responsible for MTV’s original, laid back teen-paradise reality show, Laguna Beach), MTV seems ready for a millennial renaissance.

Watch the teaser for Siesta Key:

And why not? All of us who grew up watching these shows as kids are now in our 20s, able to buy our own TVs (albeit without VHS players attached), subscribe for VOD streaming services or cable packages and browse the internet without parental controls. Above all else, we’re nostalgic for the carefree shows of our childhood.

When I used to watch Kristin Cavallari flirt with Stephen Colletti back in middle school, I desperately wanted to be in her $300 Tory Burch kitten heels. Now, I’m in my mid-20s and have slightly different summer aspirations than spending it prancing around a beach with my high school crush, but that doesn’t mean I can’t relive the fun.

MTV President Chris McCarthy is largely responsible for this mining of the network’s history to inform its current programming. “MTV’s reinvention,” he told recently told The New York Times, “is coming by harnessing its heritage.”

As a business strategy, this has been remarkably successful. In June and July, ratings for MTV’s target demographic – millennials, aka 18 to 34-year-olds—soared. It was the first time the network experienced two consecutive months of ratings growth in four years.

As Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish told The New York Times, “[McCarthy] reset the brand filter, cleaned out the pipeline and began building a new MTV that’s much more based on reality, unscripted and music content.”

What next?

As Kanye would say, “Listen to the kids, bro!”

And that’s exactly what MTV executives are doing by bringing back TRL.

“It’s the right route,” said McCarthy to the New York Times. “When you talk to artists and they say to you, unaware of what we’re doing, can you bring back TRL? We’d be crazy not to reinvent that.”

Saying Farewell to Teen Wolf: Six Moments Audiences Will Never Forget

As MTV’s popular series Teen Wolf edges towards its conclusion (at least in its current iteration – the show is already slated for a reboot) – with the second half of the sixth and last season debuting this Sunday, July 30 – it is an ideal time to reflect on the show’s impact.

After a sometimes-terrifying, sometimes captivating, always-fun six-year run, fans are accepting that this particular set of beloved Teen Wolf characters will only be around for 10 more episodes, and a bittersweet nostalgia has descended. Tyler Posey, who plays protagonist/werewolf Scott McCall, shared his reaction to news of the show’s end in an interview with TV Line: “So much peace was in me, and happiness, looking back on everything that we’ve done as a cast, as a show, as an entity. There’s not a lot of shows that can say they’ve done that and made 100 episodes and remained friends and are going to go on to bigger and better things… I am going to bawl my eyes out, but they’re all happy tears.”

The cast seems uniformly both grateful to have been part of the show and dejected about its ending:

From the series’ beginning, Scott, a high school teenager who is bitten by a werewolf and subsequently becomes one,  experiences an endless sequence of emotional and suspenseful moments. Alongside his best friend Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien), Scott quickly discovers that the other students at Beacon Hills High School carry supernatural secrets of their own, and he spends the next six seasons collaborating with and battling these fellows in monsterhood.

As we prep for the final half season of howling mayhem, here’s a look back at some of the show’s most suspenseful and emotional moments [SPOILER ALERT: for those who have not seen the first five and a half seasons, the list below will give away some major plot developments]: Read More

Save the Date for the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards: Live From Los Angeles On Saturday, August 27

Dust off your spacesuits and queue your favorite “New & Noteworthy” YouTube playlist, because the VMAs are swiftly approaching.

After transforming Madison Square Garden into a terrestrial dance hall, aerobics studio and lemonade stand for last year’s ceremony, MTV is heading back to California—specifically the Forum, a historic venue in Inglewood.

“MTV, at 35 years old, has been around almost as long as the Forum,” said Forum manager Shelli Azoff in a press release. “Together, we’re 85 and enjoy lifetimes of music history.”

The Forum—sometimes called the “Fabulous” Forum—is the nation’s largest indoor performance venue, hosting sporting events and musical extravaganzas, including the 2014 VMA telecast.

MTV lands in Los Angeles for the 2014 VMAs. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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A Super Sweet Resurgence of Reality on MTV

In 2005, a show called My Super Sweet 16 premiered on MTV. I was 14, fixated yet mildly disturbed as I watched teenagers just a couple of years my senior scream at their parents for buying  the wrong type of Mercedes as a birthday present.

Hillary Duff sang the infections theme song (which is stuck in my head as I type this). The episodes typically involved 16-year-olds barking orders at their parents and outlining outlandish demands, such as a casual half million dollar budget. The birthday princess would change costumes more times than Rihanna at the VMAs.

We watched in lurid fascination as catfights unfolded between friends, celebrity guests, and parents. We witnessed harsh consequences for parents who bought their children an underwhelming amount of diamonds:

Yashika, aka the Veruca Salt of diamonds, makes herself clear. (Photo courtesy of MTV)

This was the golden age of early 2000s reality TV. As always, MTV defined what was in vogue—and at the time, it was delightfully depraved, unscripted programming.

Along with My Super Sweet 16, MTV produced some of the most addictively decadent shows of that era—Laguna Beach, Cribs, 8th & Ocean, The Osbournes, et al. Americans were collectively hooked.

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Daphne Finds Comfort in Daria as Nashville Returns to CMT on June 1

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

When Nashville returns to CMT from its mid-season break tonight, fans can expect more immersion into the fictional and fascinating country music scene of the show’s eponymous city. But the show takes a musically adventurous turn in this preview clip of Daphne (Maisy Stella), who is apparently a huge fan of MTV’s classic show Daria.

Presumably still reeling from the death of her mother, Rayna (Connie Britton), and struggling in school, Daphne stumbles out of the mainstream and befriends exuberant vagabond Liv (Odessa Adlon), who squats in a junk-laden abandoned industrial space alongside a posse of self-described “people that nobody cares about.”

When Liv interrupts a palm reading to calm a crying toddler with You’re Standing on My Neck, the Daria theme song, Daphne joins in amazed recognition.

“You’ve seen Daria?” Liv asks, impressed (the two teenagers were likely infants when the show last ran new episodes, in 2002), before rallying her motley housemates in a change jar-clanging singalong.

What do you think, Daria? Pretty cool, right?

via GIPHY

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Pick Your Passion: 8 Divine Insights From MTV Star and Author, Charlamagne Tha God

MTV star and author Charlamagne Tha God recently took a break from his busy schedule to talk to employees at Viacom headquarters in New York City. The host of MTV’s Uncommon Sense and the recently-published author of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It told employees about his journey to stardom, from growing up in the small town of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, to working for Jay Z, to finding his truth and passion in radio and on-air TV.

Charlamagne’s close friend, radio host Lawrence Jackson, moderated the discussion, which was followed by a question-and-answer session with employees.

Watch the video:

Charlamagne emphasized finding truth and authenticity in your work, no matter what you do. He considers getting fired (by Jay Z, nonetheless) to be a necessary part of his life—a “divine misdirection.” He thinks everybody should follow their passion, but keep an open mind if their passion doesn’t fit their skillset—not everybody has the voice to sing, for example, but if your passion is music, there are many opportunities to make a career in the industry without trying to rap.

Here are some more of Charlamagne’s insights from the conversation:

On being an author: “I honestly feel like that’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve done so far. I’m from a small town in South Carolina. In order to transcend your circumstances, books and hip-hop music are what allowed me to dream. Looking at a book full of experiences I’ve been through, and hoping somebody will be empowered and touched by the way I was touched by literature is a real dope feeling.”

On privilege: “White privilege is very real. But as a black man, I feel privileged to be black. I feel like when you’re talking about black privilege, you’re talking about something spiritual. When you’re talking about white privilege, you’re talking about something systemic. When you tap into black privilege, it gives you that divine ability to prosper in life in spite of everything thrown in our face to hinder us.

“I grew up hearing about black men being kings and black women being queens and goddesses. For us, we need to get back to that way of thinking. My skin is not a liability. My skin is my strength. For anybody marginalized or oppressed, that’s your privilege. Tap into your unique privilege. Whatever you are, embrace that. I choose to embrace my black privilege.”

BURBANK, CA - MAY 08: Charlamagne Tha God, co-host of The Breakfast Club on New York's Power 105.1,autographs copies of "Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It" at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Charlamagne Tha God autographs copies of Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It at the iHeartRadio Theater LA in Burbank, California on May 8, 2017. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

On superheroes: “I grew up with Marvel comic books, and recently worked with them. I was a big Luke Cage fan, and it was a big thing for me when Netflix decided to do the series. They recently re-issued the Power Man Iron Fist comic books, and the guy who did the illustrations for those books did the illustration for me. It’s like a vision board of sorts. We were marginalized, now we’re superheroes.”

On making it in New York City: “It’s not the size of the pond, but the size of the hustle.

“Even though I was in a small pond, the ripples were making their way to New York City. I cultivated my craft in that small pond, and made a splash.”

On living your truth: “When people say things about you, or have a perception about you, that’s fine. That’s not your true character. If you’re aware of who your true character is, you can be self-aware, self-deprecating. What can people say to you then?

“As a young black man growing up, we often see men who look like us who are successful in athletics or in entertainment. If that’s not your dream, don’t do it.”

On producing top-notch content: “In the TV world, you have executives who know TV and that’s good, but do you know culture and content? You have to know both.

“Give everybody in the room credit. The know-it-all knows nothing. I tell people in radio, you’re never going to beat the internet.”

On being a fan: “I’m always a fan. Once you stop being a fan, you think your word matters a little too much, and people start saying, “Who does he think he is?” I always try to keep that fan perspective.”

On the value of success: “I admire success, but I admire what you do with success. For example, people like Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, and Jay-Z. They’re doing a lot for culture, they’re moving things forward. Those are the people I admire—not for their fame, or money, but what they do with their prosperity. Like Jay Z’s Kalief Browder documentary [on Viacom’s Spike network] – I can’t attribute that whole documentary to why Rikers is closing, but it brought a lot of attention to the vile conditions at Rikers. I don’t think that story gets told without somebody like Jay Z.”

The Golden Age of Golden Popcorn: Highlights From the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards

The 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards was a gender and genre-bending revolution. The 26th annual iteration was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on May 9, and hosted by Workaholics star Adam Devine. For the first time, MTV’s celebration of mega-hits included television juggernauts alongside cinematic blockbusters. It also banished gendered categories, a first for American award shows besides the Grammys.

Beginning in 1992, the MTV Movie Awards lit up Hollywood’s award show circuit. Its edgy and unique categories such as Best Kiss became as iconic as the network itself. As an arbiter of youth culture, MTV knows how to adapt to an ever-changing world—and this year’s ceremony was no exception.

Rolling Stone called the network’s decision to omit gender distinctions “a simple but radical switch,” citing Best Actor winner Emma Thompson’s acceptance speech.

“The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience,” Watson said. “Empathy and the ability to use your imagination should have no limits.”

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A Devine Choice to Host MTV Movie & TV Awards, Nominees Announced

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

MTV has woven the film, TV and digital realms into one broad content domain that houses the 2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards nominees. The net – which for the first time is expanding the iconic show outside the cinema – also announced that the star of the long-running Comedy Central hit Workaholics Adam Devine will host the May 7 spectacular.

Devine is a veteran of the Golden Popcorn spotlight, having won an award for Best Kiss with Rebel Wilson in Pitch Perfect 2 last year. He is also nominated for Best Comedic Performance for his role on the seventh and final season of Workaholics.

via GIPHY

The platform-agnostic categories include a few additions and some tweaks of long-running show standards. “Best Fight” is now “Best Fight the System” – to acknowledge social justice activism – while “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” have ditched their gender designations to morph into “Best Actor in a Movie” and “Best Actor in a Show.” New categories include “Best American Story,” “Tearjerker,” “Best Host,” “Best Reality Competition” and “Next Generation.”

Nominated Viacom brands include VH1 for RuPaul’s Drag Race – which earned nominations for Best Host and Best Reality Competition – and for Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party (best duo). Comedy Central’s Trevor Noah is also competing for Best Host, while Ilana Glazer & Abbi Jacobson of Broad City are nominated alongside Devine for Best Comedic Performance. Spike’s TIME: The Kalief Browder Story is in the running for Best Documentary.

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