“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.

Viacom Earns 29 Primetime Emmy Award Nominations

The 70th annual Primetime Emmy® Awards nominations announced this morning included a total of 29 nominations for Viacom-produced programming across linear and digital platforms.

The nods honor VH1’s continued, standout creativity for its groundbreaking reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race, which earned a total of 12 nominations including the 3rd nomination for host RuPaul (who won for the category in 2016 and 2017) and two nominations for the companion series RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked.

Comedy Central’s six nominations include two nominations for The Daily Show, which appears in the outstanding talk series for the first time since Trevor Noah took over as host. Last year’s short form variety winner The Daily Show: Between The Scenes was nominated for the second consecutive year. As well, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences nominated South Park for outstanding animated series for the 17th time ahead of its 22nd season premiere in September.

Paramount Network’s first original series Waco notched three nominations, while Lip Sync Battle earned a nod for outstanding reality series for the third year in a row.

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After Hot U.S. Start, Paramount Network Launches in UK

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Since its U.S. debut in January, Paramount Network has quickly bolstered Viacom’s position in the premium content space, with its first three originals – Waco, American Woman, and Yellowstone – drawing strong ratings by fusing quality storytelling with top talent.

Tomorrow, Viacom will launch a free-to-air Paramount Network in the UK, bringing the blend of premium content, unscripted fare, movies and more to one of its top European markets.

“Launching on TV screens in the U.K. is another critical milestone for the Paramount Network brand, which we’re convinced will resonate strongly with British viewers, given Paramount’s distinguished and successful history of epic, cinematic storytelling for global audiences,” said Jill Offman, executive vice president of Comedy Central and Paramount Network International. “Delivering free-to-air content to millions of U.K. households underlines our belief that, despite the growing popularity of on-demand, viewers continue to value highly TV channels that offer an intelligently scheduled linear lineup of quality entertainment.”

The channel will build on the company’s considerable past success in the UK, plugging in the editorial team of Viacom-owned Channel 5 to schedule and program the new Paramount Network.

“Paramount Network is set to deliver high-end Hollywood entertainment with blockbuster movies, scripted drama and critically acclaimed comedy featuring some of the biggest names on the planet,” said Channel 5 Director of Programs Ben Frow. “Supported by Channel 5’s creative scheduling and audience insight and underpinned by Viacom’s brand-building expertise, Paramount Network is a popular premium content destination in a free-to-air world.”

Launch content will include the hit unscripted Lip Sync Battle, the seventh season of the popular Suits, Kaitlin Olsen’s The Mick, action drama Six and fantasy drama Heroes Reborn. Classic movies, some from Paramount Pictures’ 106-year-old library, will also air on the network, which will be available on Sky, BT and Freeview.

The Paramount Network in the UK is the second to launch outside of the United States. Last month, Spain rebranded its existing Paramount Channel, which was one of Viacom’s highest-rated networks outside of the U.S. Content includes a blend of movies and television series, including the locally popular reality show Alaska & Mario: El Huracan Mexicano.

“Paramount Network has great positioning and fits perfectly with our strategy in Spain,” Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of Viacom International Media Networks Southern and Western Europe, Middle East and Africa, said when announcing the network’s arrival. “Paramount Channel has achieved great results in Spain, but it’s time to evolve the brand even further, making the channel increasingly contemporary and relevant for the Spanish market.”

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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Paramount Network’s Yellowstone Draws 5 Million Viewers for Cable’s Best Scripted Drama Premiere Since 2016

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Following a strong ratings start earlier this month for American Woman, Paramount Network cemented its place as a premium content destination by drawing in more than 5 million viewers (live+3*) for the debut episode of Yellowstone.

The series – set in a rough-and-tumble modern day American West where John Dutton (Kevin Costner), proprietor of the nation’s largest ranch, faces constant land-use pressure from developers, Native American tribes and the neighboring national park – struck gold with viewers, landing as ad-supported cable’s most-watched scripted-drama series in more than two years (since FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson).

Among Yellowstone’s headline numbers: It is this summer’s No. 1 new drama on broadcast and cable*. The program drew a 1.1 rating with the 18-49 demographic, and an even more impressive 1.7 with the 25-54 age group. It has attracted more viewers than every World Cup game on Fox and FS1, every Major League baseball telecast, and every game of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, including the Finals. It is the most-watched program in the history of Paramount Network and its predecessor, Spike.

Paramount Network – Viacom’s newest net – has considerably strengthened Viacom’s position in the original premium content space since it debuted in January with strong ratings for its first original, Waco, a six-part miniseries revisiting the siege of the Branch Davidian’s Texas compound in 1993.

This string of early successes validates Paramount Network’s strategy of recruiting and investing in top talent to drive its productions. American Woman stars Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels. Taylor Kitsch and Michael Shannon headlined Waco. And Yellowstone stars Costner and is created, written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, a renowned filmmaker whose credits include the well-regarded Sicario, Hell or High Water and Wind River.

Yellowstone has everything a worthwhile Western should, including breathtaking vistas, battles over land and Kevin Costner in the lead role,” Lynn Elber wrote for the Associated Press.

“Yellowstone” premiered Wednesday, June 20 on Paramount Network. John Dutton (center – Kevin Costner), owner of the Dutton Ranch is surrounded by his ranch team (pictured l to r) Jamie Dutton (Wes Bentley), Lloyd (Forrie Smith), Fred (Luke Peckinpah), Lee Dutton (Dave Annable), Colby (Denim Richards) and Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser).

By populating well-crafted stories with sought-after talent, the net has drawn viewers in with the sort of larger-than-television experiences that define this era of premium TV.

“I hope that the experience feels really fresh and cinematic and like a movie made for people who are sitting at home,” Sheridan told Indiewire. “That was the goal. So I hope that the scope of it and the energy and the emotion and the incredible talent of the cast, hopefully, they really leap from the screen and we have an impression that make people want to come back for more.”

New episodes of Yellowstone air Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Paramount Network.

* Nielsen, L3 data, CVG AA%; cable drama series premieres with Premiere indicator; 2018 entertainment telecasts=1/1/18-6/20/18 L3 P2+, excludes sports and news; sports comparisons L3 P2+ through 6/20/18;  Summer=5/24/18-6/20/18; L3; Premiere indicator; excludes repeats

Viacom Wins 90 Awards at PromaxBDA 2018

Viacom brands totalled 90 North America PromaxBDA Promotion, Marketing and Design Awards at a gala in New York on June 14.

Nickelodeon (21 awards), Comedy Central (27), the Paramount Network (7), Paramount Channel (6), BET (2), MTV (4), Viacom Velocity (6), Viacom Catalyst (1), Viacom18 (10) and VIMN (5) were widely represented across the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in various categories for domestic and international productions.

Additionally, PromaxBDA honored Debra Lee, BET’s long-time former CEO, with its Lifetime Achievement Award for “her decades of achievement in our entertainment and media industry.”

Congratulations to Lee and to all of Viacom’s PromaxBDA winners and shortlist honorees. Take a look at the full list of winners for each division below:

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Paramount Network Scores Year’s Top-Rated Scripted Cable Premiere Among Women

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

American Woman premiered June 7 on Paramount Network. Pictured [L to R]: Mena Suvari, Cheyenne Jackson, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Bartels.

American Woman premiered on Paramount Network earlier this month, delivering viewers into a meticulously recreated 1970s Los Angeles, where emerging women’s empowerment clashed with the stubborn and smothering traditions of an old-guard patriarchy.

The series, starring Alicia Silverstone as a bold divorcée who struggles to raise two daughters after dumping her cheating husband, resonated immediately, drawing in more than one million viewers and establishing itself as the year’s highest-rated half-hour scripted series on cable in the key women’s 18-49 and 25-54 demographics. It was also the top social comedy series on Thursday night (per Nielsen).

That American Woman debuted to stellar reviews didn’t hurt. Silverstone especially has been a critical favorite.

“Plain and simple, Silverstone is perfect casting here, and she is great in this role,” wrote Decider’s Lea Palmieri. “She nails the humor, she looks fantastic, and she delivers the intended message and that go-getter attitude in her signature, captivating style. It’s enjoyable to see this woman in particular portray another woman who is as determined to start a new life as she once was to help a classmate become cool.”

Working alongside co-stars Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels, Silverstone struggles through a 1970s world that, in its musical score, its publicly abrasive treatment of women, its clothes and its cars, is as convincing as it is alien to an observer from 2018.

“The success of a period piece like American Woman, which deals with an era that at least some of its audience will have known in person, depends greatly on the quality of the atmosphere it creates,” writes MediaPost’s Adam Buckman, who counts himself among those who experienced the 1970s IRL. “This show gets an A+ in this department, including wardrobe, locations, cars and interior décor.”

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American Woman’s Jen Bartels and Yellowstone’s Kelsey Asbille Give Back on Viacommunity Day

Jen Bartels [L], who will play a role in Paramount Network’s forthcoming American Woman, and Kelsey Asbille, who will appear in the channel’s Yellowstone, joined Viacom employees in New York City for the company’s annual Viacommunity Day.

For the past 22 years, Viacom’s annual worldwide Viacommunity Day has given back to those in need. On Friday, April 20, thousands of employees across Viacom and its brands once again volunteered to make a difference in communities around the world, from supporting L.A.’s homeless to organizing gun-safety projects in Florida to restoring outdated facilities in New York City.

Joining the Viacom employees for one project at their Times Square headquarters was talent from Paramount Network’s forthcoming originals: Jen Bartels of American Woman (premiering June 7) and Kelsey Asbille of Yellowstone (June 20). The pair sat down with the other volunteers to decorate bags that students at Free Arts NYC can use to carry home the art they create in the program.

“Thank you to Viacom for introducing me to Free Arts NYC. It’s really important for the youth to have access to arts in their daily lives. I definitely want to get involved in their mentorship programs.” – Kelsey Asbille (Paramount Network’s Yellowstone)

Free Arts NYC is important in New York City, where one in three public schools lacks an art room. The program partners with schools in these communities to “create access to the arts and exposure to creative careers” for students. They do this by offering free art days for students and families as well as art parties and free museum days.

Bartels shared that she was, “really proud to be a part of a community like Viacom that takes time out to support others, especially our youth. Sharing our creativity to brighten the lives of the children of Free Arts NYC was extremely fun and fulfilling.”

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Impactful Kalief Browder Story Wins Peabody Award for Best Documentary

Time: The Kalief Browder Story has won a coveted Peabody Award, along with eight other works that will be honored in the documentary category at the 77th annual Peabody Awards ceremony later this month.

Peabody Awards highlight ways that media can expand public knowledge, encourage empathy and support those in dire need of help, which Time: The Kalief Browder Story has certainly done.

The docuseries, which premiered last March on Viacom’s Spike (now Paramount Network in the U.S.), helped mobilize support from the community, launching a conversation about prisoners’ rights and the American judicial system, specifically that of New York City.

And this conversation is already inspiring action—such as “Raise the Age,” a bill signed into law by New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo in April 2017. The legislation will take steps to prohibit the state from charging as adults and incarcerating 16- and 17-year-olds, barring extenuating circumstances.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

Jay Z, executive producer, Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Such a law could have affected the trajectory of Kalief Browder’s life—at least, the last few years of it. Browder was arrested at 16 for allegedly stealing a backpack. He spent over three years incarcerated at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, where he was regularly beaten and taunted by fellow inmates and prison guards. Ultimately, Browder’s case was dropped due to lack of evidence and witnesses. But he hardly left prison a free man.

Stricken with PTSD from the physical and psychological torture he experienced at Rikers, Browder hanged himself on June 6, 2015.

Browder_Family_Photo_073

Kalief Browder as a child. Courtesy of Spike / The Browder family.

Jay Z, who served as the documentary’s executive producer, spoke about its powerful message last year at an event in Times Square.

“His death is here to teach us to save a generation of kids,” he said. “I say this about the movie. It’s hard to watch, but important to see.”

The documentary may have served as a catalyst for actual change—like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to close the notoriously violent prison where Browder spent the last years of his life, and laws such as “Raise the Age.”

Courtesy of Peabody Awards.

The Peabody Awards will be held on May 19 in New York, hosted by Hasan Minhaj, writer and senior correspondent on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

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.”