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.”

Viacom’s Creative Renaissance Ignites With “Jersey Shore Family Vacation” and “A Quiet Place”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In the last week, Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place won the domestic box office and MTV’s Jersey Shore Family Vacation rolled to the strongest unscripted cable debut in six years. The efforts provide commercial evidence of Viacom’s ongoing transformation – fueled by wide-ranging creative investments in talent, programming, and marketing.

The chart-topping numbers are especially encouraging in a media environment of ever-more-elusive audiences. The divergent paths to success of these two properties – A Quiet Place delivering something novel by elevating a horror story to a genre-busting blockbuster that appeals to all audiences, Jersey Shore Family Vacation building on MTV’s deep well of intellectual property to connect with its core demographic – underscore the way in which a creative renaissance is driving Viacom’s growth.

Marketing a near-silent film in an era of loud

Making a bet on the film’s potential playability, Paramount unveiled A Quiet Place at SXSW to great response. The highly original film immediately started compiling incredibly strong reviews. A clever marketing campaign then helped launch A Quiet Place to a $50.3 million opening weekend, good for the second-best domestic opening of 2018 (behind Black Panther). With a $17 million budget, the Platinum Dunes-produced and John Krasinski-directed film is a validation of Paramount’s reoriented slate and refreshed marketing approach under CEO Jim Gianopulos, who joined the studio last year.

“An innovative concept, with great talent both behind the camera and in front, and a savvy distribution and marketing plan led to Paramount’s biggest opening since 2016,” wrote Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a staff memo about the film’s success.

Building strong relationships with talent has become a particular focus for Viacom under Bakish, and Krasinski, who will produce and star in the Paramount Television-produced Jack Ryan for Amazon and co-created Paramount Network’s hit show Lip Sync Battle, demonstrates the enormous cross-brand potential that forming such deep relationships can yield.  

A Quiet Place’s unique storyline – featuring a family tiptoeing through a post-apocalyptic world infested with insectoid monsters that will devour anyone who makes a sound – created an opportunity for Paramount to execute an equally original pre-release marketing plan. They delivered: moviegoers in nearly 100 theater chains caught the sonically attuned monsters devouring noisy spectators in pre-show spots, with the stern warning that “the movie theater should be A Quiet Place.” A pre-Super Bowl ad, a launch of the second trailer on Ellen, and a kick-off spot and accompanying stunts at the SXSW Film Festival primed diverse audiences for the film’s release.

“Paramount’s reconstituted management team is focused on allowing great filmmakers to make great movies, and then doing everything we can to support those movies,” said Paramount Pictures Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “In A Quiet Place, we did exactly that: We gave a talented young director license to put together something unlike anything else out there, and then threw our marketing and distribution expertise behind the project.”

Tapping an iconic property to connect with a core audience

Jersey Shore Family Vacation had less work to do in the name-recognition department, as its iconic predecessor, Jersey Shore, had long ago etched its cast into the cultural conversation. The unknown was whether this fist-pumping bunch, six years older and reunited in the beaches and bars of Miami, would still connect with audiences.

It did. The show’s nearly 10 million total viewers and 4.2 average rating in the core 18-34 demo on live-plus-three-days metrics made Jersey Shore Family Vacation the most-watched unscripted debut on U.S. cable since 2012. The original Jersey Shore had ignited a global franchise – with spin-offs in the UK, Spain, Poland and Mexico, plus the recently launched hit Floribama Shore in the U.S – and the cast’s return resonated globally, with the premiere airing in nearly 180 countries and territories.

The strong ratings complemented a seven-hour trending run on Twitter and acted as an emphatic endorsement of MTV’s revamped creative direction under President Chris McCarthy. Under his leadership, the network has grown ratings for three consecutive quarters for the first time in seven years behind a blend of revitalized franchises, returning classics and original programs.  

“MTV is about celebrating youth culture and music where talent and creativity unite to produce content that resonates across generations,” said McCarthy, who also oversees VH1 and Logo. “Jersey Shore Family Vacation and the new Floribama Shore demonstrate how MTV can harness our heritage to create programming that appeals to a mass audience while serving as a great launching pad for our new series.”

“We’re Focused on a Return to Growth,” Bob Bakish Tells Deutsche Bank Conference

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sat with analyst Bryan Kraft at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom and Business Services Conference in Palm Beach, Florida last week. In an extended Q&A session, Bakish outlined Viacom’s wide-ranging growth initiatives, from sophisticated advanced advertising products, to the opportunities in mobile distribution, to the company’s strength outside of the United States.

“We spent 2017 really stabilizing the business, and now we’re focused on a return to growth,” Bakish said. “… We articulated a three-part plan associated with that, growing share and margins in our core business, accelerating our participation in next-generation platforms and solutions, and unlocking opportunities with synergies to the core that are outside of traditional media revenue streams.”

While Bakish looked firmly toward the future, he also summarized a few of Viacom’s many recent successes: MTV is in its 10th consecutive month of growth; BET’s ratings streak stands at three straight quarters; Paramount Network launched to both critical acclaim and ratings success in January; ratings at CMT, TV Land and VH1 continue to be strong.

Here are a few more highlights from Bakish’s conversation. You can listen to the full Q&A session here.

Viacom’s diverse demographics + diverse ad products = enormous opportunity

“… all our constituencies have embraced the flagship strategy and certainly that’s true in the ad community. We’re in a very enviable position in that we serve the full spectrum of demographics, really from preschoolers all the way up to, as I said, 25-54s. … But importantly, what you have to realize about our ad business is, yes, it’s partially ads or majority ads on linear television networks … but it’s also our advanced advertising business. And that’s around instilling data-driven approaches and alternate kind of orbits versus [potential] truck [purchasers] versus men 18 to 34 in a television-centric environment, and then all the way up through actual dynamic ad insertion, which is another element we’ve added as we’ve redone our MVPD deals this year [so that] we have access to insert at the consumer level.”

A cornerstone strategy drives growth internationally

“… [Viacom’s international cornerstone strategy] started with our creation of our joint venture in India, which we did in 2007, where we went on to launch a brand called Colors and sitting here today, it’s the number one. … We then went on to acquire Channel 5 in the UK about five years ago. That’s been a homerun and we acquired Telefe in Argentina, which is number one broadcaster in Argentina about a year ago and that’s been a homerun. So, you put that all together and you have a company that grew – our international division that grew, earnings, double digits ad revenue, double-digit affiliate revenue, double-digit ancillary revenue in the last quarter and earnings, let’s say very, very strong double digits in the last quarter and continues to be on a … strong track to additional growth.”

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MTV Rides Longest Ratings Growth Streak in 18 Years as Fans Await Even More “Shore”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

MTV’s ratings continue to grow at a torrid pace behind a programming resurgence that has revived beloved franchises and ignited new ones. As the net celebrates nine consecutive months of year-over-year primetime ratings growth – its longest streak in 18 years – MTV is keeping the programming fires stoked by announcing that the forthcoming Jersey Shore Family Vacation will reunite the original crew for not just a single season, but a second one as well.

The show’s April 5 debut follows a domestic reintroduction to the enormously popular Shore franchise in the form of hit Floribama Shore, which landed as MTV’s highest-rated series premiere in more than three years. Last night, the net also debuted a spin-off of sorts, Winter Break: Hunter Mountain, a mountain- and snow-bound reskin of the beachside Jersey barhoppers executive produced by Shore developer SallyAnn Salsano.

The pivot to unscripted programming behind MTV President Chris McCarthy has driven ratings up 20 percent year-over-year among adults 18-49, making MTV the fastest-growing channel among the top 40 cable networks.

Building upon the significant Shore archive, MTV will broadcast four Road to Vacation specials that cut the most unforgettable Jersey Shore footage with new cast interviews. The first throwback will debut March 15, with a new edition airing every Thursday leading up to the show’s premiere.

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.

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:

The Real 305 Comes to VH1 – Welcome to Love & Hip Hop: Miami

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Tunneling into the vibrant, swaggering hip-hop scenes of New York, Hollywood and Atlanta, VH1’s Love & Hip Hop franchise has planted its flag atop the ratings, consistently capturing the top three slots in unscripted cable.

Now, the surging network will add a fourth property to the franchise, as the palm tree- and beach-laced music and party scene blasts up from Miami to join its amped-up cousins.

Earlier today, VH1 pushed out the magnificent 5:49 super-trailer embedded above, introducing fans to the 24-person ensemble cast.

“When ya’ll talk about Miami, ya’ll talk about the sands and the yachts, and you party at those clubs on that side of town, but I’m here to tell you, ya’ll don’t know a mother$%#*ing thing about Miami,” the self-proclaimed “Mayor of the 305” Trick Daddy warns in the lustrous opening montage of boats and skylines and bouncing clubs. “The real 305.”

Who else inhabits this unvarnished slice of South Florida? Rap mainstay Trina, Love & Hip Hop Atlanta veteran Gunplay, Latina striver Amara La Negra, producer Young Hollywood, and many more. Meet the full cast here.

 

Part of the cast of Love & Hip Hop: Miami.

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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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CMT Artists of the Year Clocks Record Ratings With Moving Disaster Tribute

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

NASHVILLE, TN – OCTOBER 18: (L-R) Honorees Chris Stapleton, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan speak onstage at the 2017 CMT Artists Of The Year on October 18, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for CMT)

In a powerful display of unity and emotion honoring the victims of manmade and natural disasters across the United States, CMT’s Artists of the Year event aired to record ratings on Wednesday night, skyrocketing 61 percentage points over 2016 numbers while drawing more than 1.1 million fans. The program also ranked as the most social entertainment program in primetime on cable, while #CMTAOTY trended nationally on Twitter.

CMT recast the event – typically a celebration of the year’s premiere country artists – into a “night of hope and healing” following a savage mass shooting that killed 58 people attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival earlier this month, as well as a trio of hurricanes and a plague of wildfires that have disrupted life throughout much of the nation.

“We felt a commitment to our fans to transform the event into a night where we honor human resilience through music, and hopefully in the process lift the spirits of our fans,” said CMT General Manager Frank Tanki. “We’re thrilled that the special connected with so many people, especially those who’ve been impacted by the recent tragedies.”

The show’s ratings success hits as CMT is riding a 10-month ratings streak, with sustained year-over-year growth over that period among key demographics.

Here are a few highlights from the show, which aired from Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Artists of the Year deliver message of unity and resilience

When the gunfire erupted over the Las Vegas Strip on Oct. 1, country music star Jason Aldean onstage. His audience was the killer’s target. As Aldean rushed to cover, 58 people were killed and hundreds more injured in the unending barrage of bullets.

To open the show on Wednesday night, Aldean appeared alongside the other Artists of the Year: Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Keith Urban and Luke Bryan. The performers – whom the network had selected in September, prior to the format change – had all agreed to forego formal awards and focus on victims of the recent tragedies. They opened with a message acknowledging the power and importance of music, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength and courage of first responders and fans:

The show resonated especially powerfully in Las Vegas, where ratings increased an astronomical 1,877 percentage points over last year.

Country stars deliver a powerful genre crossover with a tribute to Tom Petty

CMT has a bold tradition of fusing artists (pop legends The Backstreet Boys performed country sensation Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y. during the show), and one of the night’s most uplifting moments came on just such a crossover. Aldean, Urban, Stapleton and country mainstays Little Big Town united on stage for a tribute to the late Tom Petty, belting out a stirring ensemble cover of the rocker’s I Won’t Back Down.

One of Petty’s most famous songs, the defiant anthem served as an appropriate tribute to the music legend while doubling as an apt rebuke to the fear and retreat that killers like the Las Vegas mass murderer hope to inspire:

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Highest Ratings and Most Viewers in Show History as Younger Grows Older

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Warning: spoilers ahead for TV Land’s Younger.

Season four of Younger lifted off where season three stopped: Liza strafing Kelsey with the news that they are not fellow Snapchatting millennial strivers after all, on account of L being 40-plus with a kid in college and a divorced ex-husband rambling about somewhere in suburban New Jersey.

So Kelsey storms off. And Charles’ estranged wife emerges from exile with a tell-all book about their marriage even as he and Liza seem to be toeing toward some sort of inevitable for-real romance. And Josh – seemingly recovered from busting up Liza and Charles’ proposal-ruining makeout session at the end of last season – summons L to Ireland,  where he intends to marry his girlfriend of one month, whom Liza had introduced him to.

And viewers loved it. More viewers than ever before, actually: Younger’s fourth season was the highest-rated and most-watched in series history, with double-digit percentage increases versus season three among key demos. Even more impressive, the show was the number one original ad-supported cable sitcom so far this year with women 18-49 and women 25-54. Fans pushed #YoungerTV to trend on Twitter all 12 weeks that new episodes aired.

Cheers to that, team.

via GIPHY

All those fans will be pleased that TV Land has already committed to season five. And with season four ending with a cliffhanger of a missed call to Liza from Charles, some speculate that their romance may finally start blossoming. Show creator Darren Star hinted at as much in an interview with Hollywood Reporter’s Jackie Strause.

“There is a lot of story to tell there,” he said. “As writers, we’re invested in Liza and Charles’ story but at the same time, it’s not an open and honest relationship yet. There’s a lot at stake for Liza being truthful with Charles.”

The Younger crew visited Ireland for the season four finale.

A confession from Liza to Charles would, of course, crack open the central premise of the show, as her real age would be apparent to all of the main characters. But Star doesn’t think the show’s longevity is tied to Liza perpetually keeping her secret.

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