Transformers Return, The Mist Creeps In, Logo Honors Trailblazers, Bellator Hits MSG, 17th BET Awards Air – All in a Spectacular Weekend for Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

This is an extraordinary week for Viacom, a showcase of our diverse properties and the incredible power of our brands, sprawled across theaters, televisions and event spaces all over the world.

On Wednesday, the fifth Transformers movie opened in theaters. Thursday brought Spike’s mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. Friday we celebrate Pride month with Logo’s Trailblazer Honors. Saturday is perhaps the marquee night in Bellator history, as the Spike-owned property drops into New York City’s Madison Square Garden. And Sunday takes us to the West Coast, where BET will broadcast their marquee BET Awards.

As Viacom refocuses under the leadership of CEO Bob Bakish, this rapid-fire concentration of noteworthy properties distills the impressive breadth and depth of Viacom’s multi-brand portfolio.

Here’s a day-by-day look at what’s already dropped and what’s to come over the weekend:

Wednesday, June 21 – Transformers: The Last Knight – Paramount Pictures

It is the fifth installment in the live-action Transformers spectaculars directed by Michael Bay, an intriguing collision of ancient epochs with the robot alien present, and a special effects masterpiece.

“…[I]f you’re not staggered by the technique on display here – the stuff that sets Bay’s work miles above the Fast & Furiouses, X-Men: Apocalypses and Tom Cruise-chasing Mummies of this world – you’re not paying attention,” writes The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin.

Here’s a preview of what he’s talking about:

Since the first Transformers movie hit theaters in 2007, the franchise has raked in nearly $4 billion for Paramount and redefined important elements of the movie industry. “Ever since the first movie in the robo-franchise was released into theaters a decade ago, the film industry has changed its approach to producing, releasing and reporting on movies,” writes The Street’s Buster Coen, noting that the films legitimized toy-to-cinema adaptations, stamped June as a month for movie blockbusters, and set the template for international distribution of American films.

Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters around the world now. A Bumblebee spin-off is scheduled for release next summer.

Thursday, June 22 – The Mist Spike

With a cast of complex characters unified by their small-town setting, the deft use of suspense and drama, and some imaginative writing, Spike has transformed Stephen King’s 1980 novella about a sinister, monster-filled cloud descending upon a small Maine town into a 10-part serial that debuted last night.

And it’s really good, according to a platoon of critics who got an advanced look at the pilot. “Spike’s new series based on The Mist … wasn’t written by King, but it does the author proud ,” writes CNET’s Gael Fashingbauer Cooper.

The series was written, rather, by a team led by Denmark native Christian Torpe, who is a lifelong King fan and consulted with the author at the project’s outset. King simply told him, “Don’t do anything ordinary.”

Torpe appears to have succeeded, leaving even those familiar with King’s original work in suspense. “It’s hard to judge where this newer, looser adaptation might progress from just the first hour, but Torpe has said that, like King, he intends to explore the nature of fanaticism, and how fear so often compels people to seek out unlikely prophets,” writes The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert. “If so, The Mist could be a satisfyingly complex chiller, scaring viewers not just with unexpected jumps and amped-up creepy crawlies, but with the more human monsters who are all trapped together inside, waiting out the weather.”

The Mist premieres at a time of incredible momentum for Spike, which will evolve into the premium TV Paramount Network in January of next year. While the network is still determining an exact programming lineup, they have already announced Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, a six-part documentary on Trayvon Martin produced in conjunction with The Weinstein Company, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, a six-part Waco series documenting the 1993 stand-off at the Branch Dividian compound, and a television adaptation of the 1988 classic film Heathers.

Friday, June 23 – Logo Trailblazer Honors – Logo

The fourth installment of Logo’s marquee event follows last year’s emotional outpouring of defiant pride in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

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5 Questions: Spike’s Jon Slusser Weighs in On Bellator MMA Coming to NYC

Get ready for the main event. For the first time, Bellator MMA is coming to New York City, where Spike will host its biggest fan spectacular yet, live from Madison Square Garden.

Jon Slusser, Viacom senior vice president for Sports and Specials at Spike, talks about what makes this event historic: from the title fights to the overall fan experience, and why, thanks to the dedication of the Spike team, Bellator continues to be a knockout success.

Hear what Slusser has to say about this fans-first extravaganza.

Created by Viacom Catalyst.

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

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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

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

via GIPHY

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

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

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Spike Continues Documentary Excellence With Story of Heath Ledger

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In the wake of its powerful six-part Time: The Kalief Browder Story docu-series scorching the American prison system, Spike is returning with another riveting documentary.

I Am Heath Ledger explores the life and tragic death of a rising Hollywood talent. The film, produced and directed by Derik Murray, is an astonishing posthumous profile of the fiercely talented and energetic actor stitched together from previously unseen footage shot from Ledger’s own cameras.

The actor died in 2008, long before the rise of the smartphone dropped a camera in everyone’s pocket, yet the film underscores the centrality of the device to Ledger’s life.

“There were always cameras around,” said model Christina Cauchi – one of many friends, family, and industry peers interviewed for the documentary – in the recently released trailer. “A videocamera or a Polaroid camera or the film camera. That’s the only way that I think of him, with the camera in his hand.”

“He was always a director,” said musician Ben Harper in the same video. “Acting was just a way to get there.”

Watch the full trailer below:

Ledger’s talents as an actor were considerable, however, and included the role of gay cowboy Ennis in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain and an Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

“Before Brokeback Mountain came out, it would have been unthinkable to have romantic tragedy involving two gay cowboys,” said actor Ben Mendelsohn. “This is one of the biggest heartthrobs on Earth taking on that character. That’s an artist.”

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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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Time for Change: Spike’s Docu-Series Endures Kalief Browder’s Fight for Justice In a Broken System

“When they sent me to Rikers Island, I was 16. I would say it was like hell on Earth. Sometimes, you know, I feel like I’m never going to be the same. You know, I smile, and I joke a lot. But, you know, deep down, I’m a mess because like I’m 21, and on the inside I feel like I’m 40.” – The late Kalief Browder – Time: The Kalief Browder Story

Spike’s documentary series Time: The Kalief Browder Story  exposes our broken U.S. justice system through the tragic story of Kalief Browder—a  young black man who committed suicide in 2015 after spending three years on New York City’s Riker’s Island prison for allegedly stealing a backpack.

Kalief 824px

Image courtesy of Spike.

Browder fought to clear his name until he could not fight any longer. With help from public officials and other media outlets, Spike is picking up where he left off.

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Viacom Wins Eight Cynopsis Social Good Awards, Including Impact Honors for Its LISTEN Addiction Initiative

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Anchored by its stigma-crushing LISTEN addiction initiative, Viacom brands underscored the companywide commitment to social responsibility by earning seven honors at the Cynopsis Social Good Awards ceremony in New York City this morning.

LISTEN, which earned the Impact Campaign distinction, is a multi-dimensional campaign grounded in the belief that compassion and awareness are central elements to fighting the scourge of addiction. A partnership with Facing Addiction, LISTEN unites addiction-fighting resources with transformational video stories of individuals who have fought from nearly hopeless circumstances to become inspirations for those still struggling to find sobriety.

This video is just one in a series posted on heretolisten.com. A LISTEN special that aired across 11 Viacom networks has been viewed more than 2 million times and drove 38.1 million social impressions and more than 56,000 engagements across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Debi Mazar, one of the stars of TV Land’s hit Younger, appeared alongside Niels Schuurmans, executive vice president of Viacom Velocity, to accept the award on the company’s behalf.

“I am so proud to see Viacom mobilize the voice and reach of its channels to take action in breaking down the shame and stigma around addiction and address it for what it is – a health issue,” Mazar said. “Media has the power to change hearts and minds. And LISTEN is doing that one story and conversation at a time.”

LISTEN also took top honors in the Branded Campaign for a TV Series or Special Programming category.

Logo earned a pair of honors. The network’s stirring Trailblazer Honors ceremony served as a tribute to victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre and took the Philanthropic/Human Rights Campaign category, while its Fill in the Blank push around Pride Month earned best Branded Campaign for a Digital or Mobile Platform.

BET Networks also took two categories. Its HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) Snapchat tour earned best Digital Media Campaign:


While the network’s understated Vote Your Voice spots earned top Hash Tag Promotion:

Viacom International Media Networks earned the last two honor, in the Public Service Announcement and Best Spot (30 Seconds or Less) categories, both for Nickelodeon’s Together for Good collaboration with UNICEF, which works to protect disadvantaged children around the world.

In addition to the Impact Award, Viacom received 44 total nominations across 21 categories and an impressive array of brands, including Nick Jr., Spike, Viacom International Media Networks, MTV, VH1, and our Viacom Velocity in-house agency.

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Over Three Years In Rikers for Allegedly Stealing a Backpack – Spike Tells the Tragic Story of Kalief Browder

Spike‘s newest documentary series, Time: The Kalief Browder Story, is going to make you uncomfortable.

And that’s exactly why you need to watch it.

In 2010, Kalief Browder was stopped in the Bronx on his way home from a party. Police told the 16-year-old and his friend that they were suspects in a robbery. A man claimed they had stolen his backpack. Browder pleaded his innocence, and asked officers to search him. They found nothing.

The boys were cuffed and brought to the precinct, where they were fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell. According to Jennifer Gonnerman’s 2014 exposé for the New Yorker, Browder expected to be released shortly.

Instead, he spent the next three and a half years incarcerated on Rikers Island.

In this time, Browder experienced such gruesome conditions he attempted to take his own life, twice. He was attacked by guards and fellow inmates, robbed, and thrown in solitary confinement. When offered a plea bargain that would let him leave Rikers if he admitted guilt, the teen maintained his innocence and waited for his day in trial.

That day never came. Instead, the case fizzled out. The man accusing Browder of stealing his backpack—a backpack which never turned up as evidence—returned to his home country.

Without evidence or a witness to testify against Browder, the prosecutors gave up. There was no trial. There was no verdict. Browder was summarily released. After three and a half years, Browder finally returned to his Bronx neighborhood. It didn’t feel like home anymore.

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Viacom CEO Bakish Outlines Long-Term Growth Strategy on CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Footage courtesy of CNBC.

Viacom will marshal its resources around six flagship networks: MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, and Spike, which will be rebranded next year as a premium Paramount channel. Paramount Pictures will not be going anywhere; in fact, the flagship networks will join forces with the iconic studio to produce one or two co-branded films every single year. The company still claims the highest viewership of any cable family in the United States.

These were among the core messages that our CEO, Bob Bakish, delivered to David Farber on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street following release of the company’s first quarter 2017 earnings yesterday. Watch the full conversation above, and click over to Viacom Investor Relations to read the press release or listen to the earnings call.