Viacom Announces First Quarter 2018 Results, Accelerates Transformation Efforts

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paramount Network launches Viacom Media Networks into the premium content space

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

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

The turnaround of Paramount Pictures continues

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

Viacom’s push into next-generation platforms accelerates

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

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

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

Viacom’s live events business is growing rapidly

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

International ad, affiliate and general revenue surge

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

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

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

To see what Viacom will debut in the months ahead, scroll through the timeline below, or click here to view the full-screen version.

Viacom Takes Six NAACP Image Awards Across Four Properties

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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

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

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

BETThe New Edition Story

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

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

COMEDY CENTRALLegends of Chamberlain Heights

  • Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance – Tiffany Haddish

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

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There’s No Safe Space in Paramount Network’s Heathers Reboot

Paramount Network’s Heathers is a modern take on the 80s cult classic, with sardonic, NSFW dialogue, and fierce fashion (rather than shoulder pads, this squad rocks faux fur and statement chokers).

And this time, the elite Heathers are not three white girls with long hair and thin legs rocking color coordinated twin sets. Heather M. is black, Heath is gender-fluid and their vicious ringleader Heather C. is a plus-sized, body-positive badass.

Watch the trailer:

Meet the Heathers on Instagram:

Tectonic. #Heathers #ParamountNetwork

A post shared by Heathers (@heathers) on

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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.

Legends Return and Stars Unite as Viacom Nets Stuff the Content Pipeline

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

It’s a time of great energy and invention at Viacom, with our networks announcing new shows, series extensions, and reboots weekly.

“Content is what Viacom is,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin last week. And this robust content pipeline underscores that point as ratings continue to creep up at core channels and fourth-quarter and full-year earnings map upticks in revenue and other key financial metrics.

The return of those crazy kids of Jersey legend, a beloved host helms an all-new concept, a fan-favorite franchise expands south, an unlikely onstage pairing produces a dazzling country-pop concert, a pair of season renewals drop, and a comedy legend is honored – here’s a look at previews for some our most anticipated programming, all of which MTV, VH1, CMT and Spike have released in just the past week:

MTV:

When Floribama Shore hit with the highest ratings of any network premiere in three years, it underscored fans’ hunger for the return of the Shore franchise. Perhaps foreseeing this enthusiasm, MTV queued up the return of the original series cast with a spot announcing Jersey Shore: Family Vacation during Floribama’s debut.

We don’t have many details or even a premiere date yet, but we know the important stuff: Deena, Pauly D, JWOWW, Vinny, Ronnie, Snooki and The Situation will all be back on our screens, together:

After headlining a pair of MTV classics in Rob & Big and Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory,  skateboarder and reality star Rob Dyrdek returns to the network headlining Amazingness. Human towers, a hands-free archer, stepladders balanced on teeth – check out what will be – in Dyrdek’s words – “the talent show like no other talent show in the world” beginning this Friday, Dec. 8.

VH1:

VH1 has a New Year’s present for its rabid base of Love & Hip Hop fans – the premiere of the latest complement to the hit shows set in New York, Atlanta and Hollywood: Love & Hip Hop: Miami. Here’s a first look at the series and its ensemble cast, featuring Trick Daddy, Trina, Gunplay and Amara La Negra, among others:

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Waco Releases New Trailer as Paramount Network Ramps Up for January Launch

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Boiling out of the Texas plains and straight to Paramount Network comes a story Biblical and American and tainted with violence. The six-part Waco television event resurrects David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), and his Branch Davidians in their 1993 standoff against the federal government.

In this latest trailer, we glimpse the frantic machinations of both Koresh’s cult embedded in their Mount Carmel Center compound and the ATF and FBI preparing to infiltrate it as the tale spirals toward its tragic, inexorable conclusion.

Waco will debut Jan. 24, just six days after Paramount Network launches on Jan. 12. It will join Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, American Woman, starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the cult classic Heathers.

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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.

Stephen King’s The Mist Grows Denser and More Terrifying in Spike Miniseries

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

They’re crawling out of The Mist: the terror, the monsters, the tragic characters of Stephen King’s imagination. It is the classic tale of small-town Maine meets nightmare dimension adapted from King’s 1980 novella, but painted over the rich canvas of a 10-part Spike miniseries.

When it debuts in June, the series will expand considerably on the setting and characters of King’s original work, allowing a deeper exploration of its themes of good and evil, human nature and morality – all with the author’s blessing. As The Boston Globe’s Isaac Feldberg wrote, “… when an e-mail to King himself, outlining ideas for how to adapt The Mist into a series, was met with emphatic support and one requirement — don’t do anything ordinary — everyone working on the series grew more keen to flesh out the world beyond the novella, bringing in fresh ideas and unfamiliar characters.”

The basic premise follows King’s script: citizens of fictional Bridgeville, Maine find themselves marooned indoors (in this case, a shopping mall and a church), when the mist rolls in. A few outdoor stragglers are rapidly devoured by the fog’s embedded demons.

“Soon it becomes clear that whatever is in the mist is not natural, and if you go out there, you will die,” said The Mist creator and showrunner Christian Torpe.

What lies inside may not be much better, as the terrified and panicked hostages begin to turn on one another. The first trailer delivers a horrifying preview of this wrecked world:

With its small-town setting, there is a presumed familiarity between characters even before the fog, and The Mist picks up on and develops these rich relationships – and how they evolve or devolve in the savagery of the mystery fog – as a primary plot catalyst.

“We had a rule in the writers’ room that if you ever needed the mist to move the story forward you were in trouble, because we wanted the story to be propelled by the characters, and their reactions to the mist — not the mist itself,” Torpe told The Boston Globe.

For Eve Copeland, the mist, “… brings some stuff out in Eve that makes her willing to do whatever she needs to do,”  said Alyssa Sutherland, whose character’s uneven personal history has made her wildly protective of her daughter, a survivor of sexual assault:

Eve is just one character of many – with 10 episodes, the series leaves ample room for rich development. As the small town cast flows through a vast interconnected matrix of intensifying carnage, how each person reacts reveals an enormous amount about them and about humanity.

“People’s true natures start to come out,” said Darren Pettie, who plays sheriff Connor Heisel on the show. Pettie is one of many cast members who speak to the show’s revealing portrayal of human nature in this Entering The Mist featurette:

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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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