“Viacom Is A Story of Turnaround and Evolution” – CEO Bakish Tells CNBC

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish appeared on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street yesterday, joining co-host David Faber from backstage at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference.

“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution,” Bakish said, before detailing the company’s progress ramping up its studio production business, expanding its digital presence, improving affiliate relationships and revenue, and adapting Viacom to an increasingly digital landscape.

“My job is to move Viacom forward, turn it around, evolve it, make sure it’s a vibrant company for the future to benefit our shareholders, our employees and all our partners, that’s job one, that’s what we’re doing,” Bakish said.

Here are a few highlights of the conversation:

“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution”

“Viacom is a story of turnaround and evolution. And on the turnaround side, we’ve had a lot of progress on distribution, and on the evolution side – which is really where this fits – we’ve announced recently that we’re ramping up our studio production, including on our flagship brands, on MTV and Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and that’s about getting those brands represented in third-party platforms, so that consumers who might not have a full bundle still has access to these brands, still think of them in their entertainment experience, and by the way, could be promotion to bring people into a bigger bundle.”

Viacom is increasingly Over The Top

“[Philo – which includes Viacom – is] a low price point, entertainment skinny bundle delivered via OTT. … AT&T Watch is essentially that too. There’s no broadcast, there’s no sports in there. It’s all entertainment product. It’s a limited selection, so we think there’s more to come, and in fact in every MVPD cable renewal or extension deal we’ve done in the last year and a half, it includes provision that we’ll be added to any OTT or skinny bundles that they have, so it’s more product to come.”

Delivering an evolution

“From the beginning, back to November of ’16, my focus has, was and continues to be running this company, moving it forward, delivering a turnaround, delivering an evolution. And on the turnaround we’ve got proof points on U.S. distribution, where, by the way, we have sequentially improved our distribution revenue every quarter this fiscal year. We’ll have growth in the fourth quarter, the quarter we’re in right now, and we’ll have growth in 2019. We’ve improved our audience shares. We’ve tremendously turned around Paramount.”

The financial picture improves across Viacom

“We’re focused on putting points on the board. We are. Coming out of the third quarter, I think we started to get some recognition on that. Coming out of our fourth quarter, when we deliver not only sequential improvement in domestic affiliate, but growth in domestic affiliate, I think we’ll get some respect for that. When we talk about the numbers that Paramount’s delivering, I think we’ll get some respect for that. And you don’t know what the catalyst to turn [the stock price is], but we have had a real change in sentiment.”

Viacom evolves into a multi-platform global entertainment company

“The fundamental thing we need to do is shift the narrative. People look at us, and they say, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re a domestic pay TV company,’ and the reality is, that’s wrong. We’re a multi-platform global entertainment company. And that’s why this evolution point, building these new revenue streams, whether it’s studio production, our Advanced Marketing Solutions business, our advanced ad business, which, the strategy is to use that to more than offset any decline on call it the traditional side, that business is growing over thirty percent. You’ll see that business grow, on a percentage basis, accelerate in ’19.”

Earlier in the morning, Bakish also appeared onstage at Communacopia. You can listen to his full question-and-answer session here.

Viacom Boosts Digital Presence, Showcases Classic Content as NickSplat Launches on VRV

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Nickelodeon’s canon runs deep: AAAHH!!! Real Monsters, All That, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, CatDog, Clarissa Explains It All, Doug, Kenan & Kel, Legends of the Hidden Temple, Rocko’s Modern Life, The Angry Beavers and The Wild Thornberrys.

Beginning today, these and many other Nick favorites – nearly 30 altogether – are available on NickSplat, an over-the-top destination served up a la carte or as part of the VRV platform. The channel, with its treasure chest of classic Nick shows, serves as both the latest evidence of Viacom’s deliberate move into the digital arena and an affirmation of its brands’ enormous reserves of intellectual property.

“Viacom’s content – including our deep library of genre-defining television – is highly in demand, and our audiences are always looking for new and innovative ways to enjoy our programming,” said Viacom Executive Vice President of Distribution and Business Development Partnerships Sam Cooper. “We’re committed to finding the best partners to bring our individual brands direct to the consumer, and this relationship with VRV is an exciting step forward in our strategy.”

The NickSplat launch over VRV builds on a series of recent moves to widen Viacom’s content footprint within the digital universe, both via the company’s own channels and over third-party platforms. In June, Nickelodeon announced that it would produce two seasons of Pinky Malinky for Netflix, while MTV would revive Real World, Daria, Aeon Flux and other classic shows for as-yet-to-be-announced platforms. Awesomeness, which Viacom recently acquired and folded under its Viacom Digital Studios umbrella, has a strong track record of third-party production, evidenced most recently by To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, which debuted earlier this month on Netflix.

This studio model complements a general ramping up of premium content production throughout the Viacom ecosystem, from the explosive growth of Viacom Digital Studios to the consolidation of its global network into Viacom International Studios to the zero-to-$400-million-in-projected-annual-revenues ascendance of Paramount Television.

VRV is the premiere launch partner for NickSplat, and Viacom will curate content for the channel throughout the partnership. The $9.99-per-month service joins a roster of 12 channels – including Crunchyroll, Funimation, Rooster Teeth, Shudder and more – along with exclusive series such as HarmonQuest, Killjoys, Thundercats and Gary and His Demons.

Awesomeness’ Netflix Romcom Showcases Viacom’s Digital, Premium Content Strategies

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

It’s a worst-nightmare-come-to-life scenario for teenage Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor): five fawning secret love letters disappear from her room and turn up in the mailboxes of her five crushes. The mortified scribe soon finds herself in an elaborate tap-dancing deception involving her sister’s ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard), and her school’s resident superhunk Peter (Noah Centineo).

This is the setup for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, an Awesomeness Films production based upon the Jenny Han novel of the same name and currently airing on Netflix. The wellreviewed romantic comedy is the first that the studio has released since joining Viacom and the latest in a long line of movies Awesomeness Films has produced for digital platforms, including last summer’s You Get Me on Netflix.

The film’s release over a popular streaming platform affirms the strategic importance of last month’s acquisition, as Awesomeness’ production capabilities and relationships with third-party platforms fuel Viacom’s mission to amplify its digital presence and significantly boost its volume of premium content production.

Wrapped under the Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) umbrella, Awesomeness’ output – which also includes a TV division that produces series such as Hulu’s All Night  and forthcoming Light as a Feather, as well as YouTube Premium’s Foursome – bolsters an already-surging unit that drove 7 billion digital streams last quarter and significantly grew year-over-year video views (+112 percent) and watch time (+104 percent). VDS, which is still in its nascent phases, has an additional 600 hours of new, original digital content in the pipeline.

“The [Awesomeness] team brings strong digital expertise, deep connections with top talent and influencers, and a robust branded content studio and creative agency that will accelerate the growth and scale of Viacom Digital Studios,” VDS President (and Awesomeness alum) Kelly Day said when the deal was announced.

To All the Boys also debuts at a time when Viacom is significantly ramping up its productions for third-party platforms, both through Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Television production unit and a studio model that mines the company’s deep content vault and translates that intellectual property into new programming. Paramount Television expects to bring in more than $400 million in fiscal 2018 on the back of hits such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and Amazon’s Jack Ryan, while Nickelodeon is producing Pinky Malinky for Netflix and MTV revives fan-favorites The Real World, Daria, Made and others. The newly formed Viacom International Studios has established a powerful generator of Spanish- and Portuguese-language content, with shows for Netflix, Amazon, Telemundo, Fox and others.

Viacom Activates Powerful Studio Model Growth Driver As MTV, Nick Move Into Third-Party Production

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Pinky Malinky is an upbeat teenager who has a lot in common with his peers: he posts rabidly on social media, he hangs out nonstop with his two best pals, and he constantly must navigate the social pressures of school and life. But there’s one very important thing that will make Pinky unique among Nickelodeon characters (besides the fact that he’s a talking hotdog): when his show debuts later this year, fans will find him exclusively on Netflix.

But Pinky won’t likely be alone for long – across Viacom’s ecosystem, brands are digging into their vaults to identify intellectual property that could be an ideal fit for a digital or linear programmer outside of Viacom. MTV, under the banner of MTV Studios, is for the first time cracking open its rich, 35-year archive to offer its iconic, youth-centric content – Real World, Daria, Aeon Flux, the Emmy Award-winning Made, just to start – in new or reimagined form on non-Viacom platforms. In addition to strategically tapping the 200 titles in its massive library, MTV Studios will churn out new ones, including, to start, The Valley (working title), about a group of friends growing up in the U.S.-Mexico border town of Nogales, and MTV’s Straight Up Ghosted, in which victims of this mobile-age abandonment will confront their disappearing former intimates.

Similar efforts will follow at other Viacom networks.

This studio model – under which Viacom will license and produce new episodes of fully owned content for third parties – will present an enormous growth opportunity, as the company’s brands increasingly feed the insatiable global demand for premium content.

Viacom is uniquely positioned to do this. The company’s voluminous original content libraries house an enormous number of beloved properties that speak deeply to their fans. Its archives stretch back decades – and, in the case of Paramount Pictures, more than a century. Its properties resonate deeply with high-value audiences: kids (Nickelodeon), African-Americans (BET), youth (MTV), the LGBTQ community (Logo), and more. Viacom’s global footprint means that those audiences stretch across cultures and borders. As the first port-of-call for creatives pitching shows tailor-made for these audiences, Viacom’s brands are keenly aware of what is in the market. Its production expertise is second to none.

And even as these sorts of deals multiply, Viacom will retain all consumer products rights for all properties, fueling the company’s increasingly robust consumer products operation.

The possibilities for third-party licensing and production are practically limitless. Pinky Malinky – which will feature Nick branding at the show open and embodies Nickelodeon’s patented spirit of fun and surprising stories and characters – is just the first of up to a dozen properties that the brand is positioning for reboots or co-productions this year alone.

Valen-time to hang out with my best friends! ❤️❤️ @babs_buttman @jj_james0n

A post shared by Pinky Malinky (@pinky_malinky) on

“Proliferating distribution platforms create incremental demand for VIAB’s [Viacom’s] content because high-quality branded content is one of the most valuable forms of differentiation for competing distribution platforms,” Needham declared in a bullish March analysis of the company’s stock. “VIAB’s film and television libraries represent differentiated, globally scalable, long-lived content.”

Take, for example, Jack Ryan, the Tom Clancy action hero who fought his way through five Paramount Pictures films, starting with 1990’s The Hunt for Red October. The quintuplet of movies grossed hundreds of millions of dollars and still carries strong brand recognition and a built-in fanbase. But while there is no obvious basecamp for Ryan within Viacom’s current brand archipelago, his bulletproof vest is a perfect fit for Amazon Video, which will debut the 10-part Jack Ryan series in August.

This branching out into third-party content production has been subtly underway for some time, both in the United States and abroad. Paramount Television, the production arm of Paramount Pictures that is producing Jack Ryan, has quietly built a $400 million-per-year business from scratch by producing premium content like Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and USA Network’s Shooter.

In May, Viacom International Studios (VIS) united the extensive production capabilities of wholly Viacom-owned Argentinian broadcaster Telefe and majority-owned Brazilian comedy brand Porta dos Fundos with Viacom’s Miami-based production operations, creating a multi-lingual machine that will develop, produce and distribute original content around the world. A matrix of SVOD, pay TV and free-to-air distribution deals will place VIS-produced long-form series (Borges on Netflix in Latin America), cinematic adaptations (Telefe’s Animal on Fox Networks’ platforms in Latin America), telenovelas (Vikki RPM on Caracol Televisión in Colombia), and co-productions (Club 57 on Rainbow Group in Italy and Nickelodeon elsewhere) in diverse markets and maximize the potential of formerly regional or local properties.

These licensing deals will therefore sprinkle tastes of Nickelodeon and MTV and Telefe and other Viacom properties throughout the global content ecosystem, while segmenting the full brand experience for consumers who subscribe to a Viacom linear or digital distributor. Even so, this nascent third-party production is already acting as a powerful growth driver as Viacom diversifies outside of its core television business under President and CEO Bob Bakish.

“Building on the success of Paramount Television and Telefe’s quickly growing production business, we’re going to much more aggressively tap into the huge demand for content and unlock more of our IP and production and creative capabilities to drive incremental revenues from third-party platforms,” Bakish said on Viacom’s second-quarter 2018 earnings call in April. “This isn’t just an idea. … there is a lot of interest from SVOD partners in licensing library properties from MTV and Nickelodeon IP for brand-new interpretations. At the same time, we’re also developing new IP for the sector and have already closed deals for brand-new original Nick IP and animation with third parties and we see more in the pipeline.”