Viacom Announces First Quarter 2018 Results, Accelerates Transformation Efforts

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paramount Network launches Viacom Media Networks into the premium content space

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

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

The turnaround of Paramount Pictures continues

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

Viacom’s push into next-generation platforms accelerates

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

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

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

Viacom’s live events business is growing rapidly

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

International ad, affiliate and general revenue surge

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

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

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

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

Viacom Acquires VidCon, Boosting Live Event and Digital Businesses

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

In a move that will accelerate its participation and investment in next-generation platforms and expand its focus on live events, Viacom has acquired VidCon, host of the world’s largest multi-day conference for the global online community.

VidCon – which will remain a stand-alone entity and retain its senior leadership team – will be able to considerably expand its global reach with the start-up spirit that has allowed it to flourish.

“VidCon has become the foremost gathering place for the passionate online video community, and the access to talent, experts and education that VidCon provides for attendees is unparalleled,” said Jason Jordan, Viacom executive vice president of Multiplatform Strategy and Operations. “We’re excited to partner with the team to help achieve their vision and expand VidCon’s reach around the world while maintaining the grassroots energy and authenticity that makes the experience so unique and special to so many.”

Moving Viacom to the center of the online video landscape

The announcement follows Viacom’s November launch of Viacom Digital Studios under President Kelly Day and last month’s acquisition of influence marketing firm WHOSAY, underscoring the company’s push onto the next-generation digital platforms at the center of our fans’ lives.

Even as VidCon expands the reach of its eponymous events, the company’s capabilities will both complement and bolster Viacom’s ongoing digital efforts.

“We’re huge fans of the VidCon team, and we share the same enthusiasm for the power of connecting talented creators with their incredible fan communities,” said Day. “This team has built an unprecedented live experience that brings together the global online video community in celebration of the people and platforms shaping the future of content, and we’re excited to join forces as we look to expand our slate of original digital programming and partnerships.”

Boosting Viacom’s growing live event portfolio

Last year, Viacom launched Comedy Central’s inaugural ClusterFest, which attracted 40,000 fans and rave reviews. The BET Experience brought in 165,000 fans. Paramount Network’s Bellator MMA visited New York’s Madison Square Garden for the first time.

This was all part of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish’s long-term strategy to considerably increase the number, reach and impact of live events in the company’s portfolio. VidCon fits perfectly within those plans.

With more than 30,000 attendees and 80-plus sponsors (including, for many years, Viacom), at its flagship Anaheim event, VidCon has become the largest multi-day conference of its kind and cemented itself as the premier event for the worldwide online video community. And while VidCon has already carried this momentum into events in Amsterdam and Melbourne, Viacom’s global network of platforms and properties give it the resources to supercharge that reach both internationally and within the United States.

“I couldn’t imagine a better partner to help VidCon continue its mission of democratizing the creative economy around the world,” said Jim Louderback, CEO of VidCon. “Viacom’s expansive reach across all of our key constituents will give us the opportunity to expand our global footprint more rapidly. We’re also looking forward to their expertise in pioneering and executing live fan-first events – from the Video Music Awards and BET Experience to Comedy Central’s ClusterFest – as we continue to make VidCon a life-changing experience for those that create and love online video.”

VidCon will remain a standalone subsidiary and voice for democratizing the creative economy

From its offices in Missoula, Montana, Louderback and co-founder Hank Green lead a 20-person team that has established an important meeting place, safe space, and community-driven destination for online video creators and their fans. They have long partnered closely with United Talent Agency, who has pushed global sponsorship sales to maximize the organization’s visibility and impact.

None of this will change (though Louderback will report to Viacom’s Day and Jordan) – Viacom will simply provide more resources and a bigger microphone to allow VidCon to continue nurturing the online video community and ecosystem.

“I’m so happy that we found such a strong, successful, and progressive company to give our team the stability and resources needed to make bold moves at home and grow what we’re doing internationally,” said Green. “Viacom has decades of expertise creating incredible live events for fans, and we are building something truly unique by blending that with our team’s deep care and passion for the community and culture of online video. I’m so excited to be part of this team and to continue our work connecting people, providing amazing experiences and helping creators create.”