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.

Kate Remsen Inspires a Greener Viacom With “Eco-Lodeon”

Orange is the new green at Nickelodeon—at least, according to Kate Remsen, Burbank-based project coordinator, avid environmentalist and founder of Viacom’s West Coast “Eco-Lodeon” initiatives.

Remsen came to Viacom in 2013 as a Comedy Central intern while studying film and television at Loyola Marymount University. After graduation, she began working as executive assistant to David Steinberg, the senior vice president of animation production at Nickelodeon. “I always wanted to work in entertainment,” said Remsen.

Viacom fulfilled her career goals. Unexpectedly, it became a venue to actualize her passion for environmental sustainability—something she might not have been able to do at other media companies.

Read More

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.’”

Read More

SpongeBob SquarePants Delights Critics in Broadway Debut

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following an audience-wowing run in Chicago, Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants The Broadway Musical officially landed in New York City last week, greeted by captivated fans and an ocean’s worth of critical praise.

“Skeptics better tie themselves to the mast if they want to survive this tempest of effervescent candy-for-the-spirit,” writes Vulture’s Sara Holdren. “Even if you venture into the Palace feeling Squidward  -ish, it’s a truly gloomy soul who’ll be able to leave without mirroring the dopey grin with which the show’s absorbent yellow hero responds to his buddy’s existential angst…”

The Tina Landau-directed story, in brief: while the ever-more-fiercely trembling Mount Humungous threatens to bury Bikini Bottom beneath a tsunami of lava and ash, a number of subplots playfully expose the absurdity of contemporary real-world issues in the non-animated realm in which we all dwell. Sandy the squirrel faces land-animal xenophobia from her sea fellows. Plankton’s attempts to win business through hypnosis has echoes of an online fake-news sales job. “Tidal warming” threatens to upend daily life.

With music from an all-star jukebox’s worth of musicians, a riotous set and costumes perfectly channeling the cartoon’s manic aesthetic, and a cast preternaturally suited to their undersea identities, the show is a complete work, tuned both to its obvious target audience of children and to theatergoers entranced by the spectacle of big-time Broadway productions.

Critics, many of whom expressed only a vague familiarity with the show prior to stepping into the Palace theater, were delighted. Here’s a sampling of what they liked:

The set design

Twenty years in, SpongeBob fans are well acquainted with the whimsical animated set pieces that constitute Bikini Bottom. But even long-time observers will be delighted by the maritime decor, a boldly colored and meticulously curated bazaar of pool noodles, floaty-devices, and the discarded effluvia of the consumerist human world above – shopping carts, umbrellas, surfboards and more.

“[Set designer]  David Zinn, a master designer, seems to have been fed an herb meal before devising the set and costumes that transform the noble old Palace into a trippy mindf!ck that’s equal parts Rube Goldberg and Electric Circus,” writes Deadline’s Jeremy Gerard. “I doubt there are any colors on view that exist in nature, or that you or I have seen since black light met ingested pholiotina cyanopus.”

Sesley Taylor as Sheldon Plankton (center) and company. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017.

The costumes

Bikini Bottom is crowded with characters of odd shape and dimension, and Zinn, who in addition to set designer is also the show’s costume designer, does not try to interpret this cartoon fantasyland literally. Instead, the actors’ decidedly human-proportioned outfits match their character’s familiar color palette, evoking their essence while individual performances complete the profile.

“The production smartly shuns prosthetics to match the characters’ looks from the animated series. Instead, undersea denizens are given human form but retain telltale traits,” writes Joe Dziemianowicz in The New York Daily News. “It’s a smart decision that broadens accessibility — fans and non-fans, adults and kids.”

Pictured: The company of SpongeBob SquarePants. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2017

The music

SpongeBob’s Broadway debut packs an outsized catalogue of that key element to so many big-time stage productions: music. The play brims with songs – many of them originals created for this production – by a deep well of musicians: Yolanda Adams, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Sara Bareilles, Jonathan Coulton, Alex Ebert, The Flaming Lips, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At the Disco, Plain White T’s, T.I., David Bowie, Tom Kenny and Andy Paley.

Read More

Your Authenticity Is Your Superpower, and More Insights From HERE Presents: Breakthrough Women in Sports

Asani Swann is the vice president of business strategy at Melo Enterprises, the multi-million-dollar organization of NBA All-Star athlete Carmelo Anthony. She’s also a woman of color.

Swann entered the male-dominated sports management industry armed with a bevy of professional experience in branding, contract negotiation and business partnership from her previous career at Macy’s. She had her MBA. And for the first time in her life, she lost her voice.

“There weren’t a lot of people who looked like me,” said Swann, speaking to nearly 250 Viacom employees and guests at HERE Presents: Breakthrough Women in Sports, a panel discussion sponsored by our employee resource group for women (HERE).

“When I walked into a room, people would ask me if I had gone to college,” said Swann. Other times, they’d ask if she was somebody’s girlfriend.

But Swann didn’t stay silent for long. She learned to alchemize negative energy into personal empowerment. Her career thrived, and so did her soul.

“Authenticity,” said Swann, “is my superpower.”

HERE Presents: Breakthrough Women In Sports panelists share wisdom from their success in a male-dominated industry. From L-R: Lisa Borders, Jaymee Messler, Stephanie McMahon, Pam Kaufman, Constance Schwartz-Morini and Asani Swann. Photo by Matthew Levinson for Nickelodeon.

Read More

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.

Read More

2017 Nickelodeon HALO Awards: Doing Good Never Sounded So Great

Ten-year-old Zoe Terry is the Miami-based CEO of Zoe’s Dolls, a nonprofit organization that collects and donates dolls with darker skin tones to girls of African, Hispanic, Caribbean and African-American descent. Terry founded her company in 2012 at age 5 to give these girls an opportunity to play with dolls that looked like them—something she felt was lacking in her community.

Since then, nearly $20,000 in dolls have been donated to more than 4,000 young girls in the U.S., Haiti and Africa. On Nov. 26, the Nickelodeon HALO Awards honored Terry and three others for their philanthropic efforts.

Nick Cannon and our 2017 HALO Honorees Raegan Junge, Caleb White, Zoe Terry, Andrew Dunn. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

The HALO Awards celebrates young leaders who are changing their communities and the world by “Helping and Leading Others.” Rapper Nick Cannon created the awards show in 2011, and returned this year to host the ceremony.

Nick Cannon and Raegan Junge on stage at the 2017 Nickelodeon HALO Awards (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

Read More

Viacom’s Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program Grad Ceremony Inspires Teen Coders, Employees and Company Executives

Each year since 2015, Viacom Headquarters has opened its doors to a group of teenagers, letting them loose on the floors of our tech department and off-site broadcasting control rooms.

Sound hectic? Well, it’s part of Girls Who Code, a nationally-renowned nonprofit initiative which aims to increase the number of women in computer science. It teaches young girls computer programming skills, which they can use towards a future career in tech, or any number of jobs where this knowledge is essential.

Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters inspired a new generation of teen techies.

Viacom provides expert mentors from various fields in the company to teach the girls what it takes to become a force in any industry they pursue. We host field trips to off-site locations such as The Daily Show production studio, where the teens can see how many ways tech can be applied in the media industry.

And yes, the result is a bustling summer of adventure and learning, with crowded elevators at company headquarters and wide-eyed teens gazing at the walls of our building as if it were a majestic castle. It’s also a valuable learning experience for current employees.

In many ways, our GWC program reminds me of how lucky I am to work at Viacom—a place where we’re encouraged to learn new skills, connect with colleagues in other departments, and walk through hallways covered with exquisite art.

At the end of August, the company held a graduation ceremony for these students at our Times Square Headquarters.

The 2017 graduating class of Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish spoke at the event, telling the audience how Viacom’s involvement with GWC personally resonated.

“Speaking as an engineering grad – but more importantly, as a dad of two teenage girls, it’s especially gratifying that Viacom is part of this incredibly important work to build a strong community of female leaders in computer science,” said Bakish.

“[Viacom] brands create great content that drives culture and conversation in more than 180 countries. Coding enables us to do what we do – from production to distribution, operations to advertising, broadcasting and beyond.

It is the glue that holds our digital infrastructure together…and it’s the foundation for the new and innovative experiences that allow our fans to connect even more closely with their favorite Viacom brands and content.”

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish speaks about the value of diversifying tech at Viacom’s Girls Who Code summer immersion program graduation ceremony at Viacom’s Times Square Headquarters.

Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami also spoke, telling the audience of graduates, employees and family members how crucial coding is for women. “There are so many places where females are underrepresented and its inspiring to know there are movements like Girls Who Code who are trying to change that,” said Zarghami.

The Nickelodeon executive followed up with an pertinent example of how the network broke gender tropes with an iconic 90s show, Clarissa Explains It All.

“It was an important show because it broke a lot of rules. We were told that boys wouldn’t watch shows about a girl. And that more girls would watch a show about a boy than about a girl,” said Zarghami. However, the show defied stereotypes: “It was a giant hit.”

There is so much more to be done, Zarghami stressed. “There aren’t enough women directors, or screenwriters, or producers. Or female leads in super-hero movies,” said Zarghami.

“But there is a movement now to change all of that, not just in TV and tech, but in every field. And you, and your generation, and organizations like Girls Who Code, are a big part of this change.”

Hear from the grads

“Thank you Viacom for this amazing opportunity and for helping to combat the stigma that girls can’t do math or STEM because WE CAN and WE WILL!” – Group Body Posi+-

“Viacom helped bring a real-life touch to coding.” – Charlotte, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“It was so cool being here at Viacom. We went to see The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. We got to see the whole studio and all the people working to make the production come alive, which was cool especially since I’m interested in entertainment and the more creative aspect of production. It was interesting to hear from the staff the paths they took to get to their career, which weren’t necessarily conventional [production-oriented] paths. I grew up watching Nickelodeon. We got to see where the magic happens and how [shows] are made. It was great to see how we can take what we learned in seven weeks and use that to actually help people and create things on your own in the future.” I’ve never coded before, so I was a little nervous about that. However, the other students in the program were supportive, amazing and just so friendly, and it was amazing being with such a diverse group of girls. Everyone was different, they had different ideas, came from different backgrounds…it was just so cool. I definitely made some great friends here.” – Alaire, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“We really enjoyed our guest speakers. One of the speakers gave us really good insight about being a woman in tech, life in general and how to maintain a balance between work and play.” – Maitri, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

“Going on what Maitri said, this speaker told us that you don’t always have to stick to one thing, you can always go around and you find different things and eventually you will find something that you are the perfect fit for.” – Brianna, Girls Who Code 2017 Graduate

 

Photos by Amy Pinard Photography 

Nickelodeon Helps Break Bread and Boundaries for Child Refugees

Children mingle with SpongeBob at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during a UNICEF Refugee Welcome Dinner in partnership with Purpose and Playworks. Photo by Tatiana Cadet.

Twenty people are forcibly displaced every minute as a result of conflict or persecution. This adds up to 65.6 million people around the world, 22.5 million of whom are refugees – a person forced from their country to escape war, persecution, or a natural disaster. Unfortunately, these stateless wanderers are not always met with open arms. Many are denied a nationality and access to basic rights when the countries they flee to struggle to cope with the influx.

Companies across the U.S. have stepped up for refugees who struggle to find a community and a place to call home. Here at Viacom, Nickelodeon’s pro-social team recently participated in UNICEF’s Refugee Welcome Dinners, along with the organization’s local partner agency, Purpose, and Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play partner Playworks, which uses play to improve children’s physical health and social and emotional learning. UNICEF brought kids and families from Guatemala, Mexico, Guinea, Venezuela, Botswana, and the Central African Republic to the Lodge cafeteria at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters to join the Playworks kids for a Nickelodeon-style pizza party.

The gathering was complete with a Paw Patrol AR pictures booth, a four-square recess game, and a dancing SpongeBob SquarePants. Kid-friendly Top 40 music filled the air, and the kids showed off their best Backpack Kid dances. Tables topped with orange table cloths and piles of candy adorned the space and a Nickelodeon promo video took over the Lodge television screens.

Children mingle with SpongeBob at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters during a UNICEF Refugee Welcome Dinner in partnership with Purpose and Playworks. Photo by Tatiana Cadet.

Regardless of race or creed, each guest came together and broke bread and boundaries, in the true spirit of Viacommunity. The event in its entirety made a powerful statement about the importance of tolerance, positivity and acceptance. Above all, it showcased the true impact that joining together in play has on the wellness of children’s souls.

Nick Follows MTV OTT Success in Return to Japan

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Nickelodeon legends SpongeBob, Dora and Leonardo and his shell-clad gang are packing their passports. Their destination? Japan.

But they won’t be rolling up in the turtle’s party wagon or following Dora’s Map to get there – this crew and more Nickelodeon favorites will arrive in the Land of the Rising Sun via an over-the-top (OTT) and mobile channel on Japanese subscription service dTV-Channel.

via GIPHY

“Over-the-top and mobile offer an important growth path for Nickelodeon and our other flagship brands in mature subscription TV markets like Japan,” said Mark Whitehead, president and managing director of VIMN’s Asia Pacific region. “This is another strong example of Viacom forging deep and innovative partnerships with OTT and mobile distributors, like NTT DOCOMO’s dTV-Channel™ in Japan, to make our ‘must-see’ content available when, where and how consumers want to view it.”

When the new channel launches in the first quarter of 2018, it will bring Nick content back to the nation of 127 million for the first time since 2009. With its re-entrance into Japan, Nick will have a home in every major international market that it is able to enter, with the exception of China.

The launch of the Nick channel follows a strong run for MTV’s OTT product in Japan, where online viewership (on AbemaTV and MTV MIX on Hulu Japan), now surpasses that on linear versions of the channel.