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

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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Women’s Viewership Surges as Paramount Network Wraps Stellar First Ratings Month

Behind a premium content strategy anchored in original scripted series such as Waco and hit unscripted programs inherited from Spike, Paramount Network wrapped up its first month with strong ratings driven partly by surging female viewership. Ratings for the net checked in with a 50 percent primetime leap over its previous quarter (as Spike) in the key 18-49 demo.

Especially notable was the soaring viewership among women 18-49: an overall jump of 44 percent punctuated by a 274 percent eruption around the six-part Waco miniseries.

As Waco wraps up, Paramount Network continues to roll out its long-term slate of premium content, including the forthcoming Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner.

Watch the teaser:

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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:

Paramount Network Launches, Propelling Viacom Into Premium Content Space

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Paramount Network launches tonight with a special edition of smash hit Lip Sync Battle, propelling Viacom into the premium content universe and building on the century-long storytelling tradition of fellow Viacom property Paramount Pictures.

The launch marks an important business milestone for Viacom, fulfilling a key pillar of CEO Bob Bakish’s strategic plan and cracking open potential for new marketing and advertising partnerships behind a star-studded slate that blends the best of the retiring Spike network with high-quality scripted programming.

The network will rumble to life at 9 p.m. ET with Lip Sync Battle Live: A Michael Jackson Celebration, a showcase of the legendary musician’s hits starring Neil Patrick Harris, Taraji P. Henson, Hailee Steinfeld, Laverne Cox and others.

Paramount Network completes CEO Bob Bakish’s flagship six strategy

The Paramount Network launch culminates a monumental yearlong effort to reorient Viacom under CEO Bob Bakish, consolidating resources under the company’s most iconic brands. The focus around six flagships – Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Paramount Network – is a strategy Bakish had successfully implemented in his decade-long run as head of Viacom International Media Networks.

The strategy has proven successful on the domestic front as well. Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. remain the top kids brands, MTV has ignited a primetime ratings and programming resurgence, Comedy Central completed 2017 with its best ratings week of the year, and BET just completed its 16th year as the top cable network for African-Americans. The last piece was the launch of Paramount Network.

“There’s no better way to better encapsulate Viacom’s strategy change under Bob Bakish than to look at the creation and launch of the Paramount Network,” notes TBI Vision.

Paramount Network launches Viacom into the premium content game, with big stars and great stories

Paramount Network’s premium scripted content will launch Jan. 22, when Waco, co-starring Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch, debuts. Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the 80s classic Heathers will follow later this year.

“The audience has an expectation that there are going to be big names, big stars, great storytelling, great characters, and I think that’s what we have to focus on,” Paramount Network President Kevin Kay told Variety.

Paramount Network opens up tremendous partnership opportunities

The combination of captivating content, huge talent and high production generates enormous interest not just from fans, but also from advertising, distribution and creative partners who want to do business with Viacom.

“All the groups together went out and presented to both the movie studios, to our agency clients, and then to our distributors as well,” recalled Kay when asked how partners have been processing the rebrand. “People understood why we are rebranding Spike as Paramount Network, they’re excited to work with us, and the biggest thing I think that came both on the distribution side and on the ad-sales side was that clients said, ‘we want to be your partners.’”

The best of Spike is coming along

When the tribute to the King of Pop ticks to life tonight, the long-running Spike network will cease to be in the United States, gifting to Paramount Network its top unscripted programs – Ink Master, Bar Rescue, and Lip Sync Battle – plus Bellator MMA.

This mix of legacy unscripted programming establishes the net’s impressive versatility and provides a stable complement to Paramount Network’s still-evolving scripted slate.

“We’ve got scripted dramas, non-scripted in a big premium way, we’ve got scripted comedies, we’ve got docuseries, and we’ve got Mixed Martial Arts,” Kay told Deadline. “If you look around at the broadcast networks, that’s not a bad model to me. On the broadcast networks, you’ve got drama nights, you’ve got comedy nights, you’ve got sports nights. You’ve got a lot of variety for different viewers across a very broad audience. I feel that’s where we want to be.”

Nobodies will also migrate to Paramount Network, from Viacom’s TV Land. There are more original concepts in development, including sketch comedy series Browntown in collaboration with leading Latino-focused digital media brand mitú.

Paramount Network builds on Paramount Picture’s century-long legacy

Paramount Network takes its name from the rich DNA of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, the 105-year-old Hollywood icon whose deep catalogue houses some of the most memorable films ever made, including Titanic, Forrest Gump, and the Godfather films. While Paramount Network and Paramount Pictures will operate separately, their relationship will mirror that of other Viacom properties under Bakish, in which the brands collaborate with the movie studio to maximize the reach of intellectual property.

“There’s a real big need, and there’s a want, a desire, for us all to work together really closely, to both exploit [Paramount Pictures’] library and then to help promote the movies, and then to potentially create some great programs for Paramount Network,” Kay explained.

Paramount Pictures also owns the Paramount Television production studio, which tripled its revenue in 2017 through a steady stream of high-quality content, including the Netflix sensation 13 Reasons Why, Epix’s Berlin Station, and Shooter on USA.

“There is incredible demand for high-quality television content and the reality is, there are not that many places that you can get it,” Bakish said at the at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in December, underscoring the importance of Paramount Television.

The Paramount name resonates globally – Viacom offers a network called Paramount Channel in select markets outside of the United States. According to Bakish, it is the largest ad-supported movie channel in the world.

Waco Releases New Trailer as Paramount Network Ramps Up for January Launch

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Boiling out of the Texas plains and straight to Paramount Network comes a story Biblical and American and tainted with violence. The six-part Waco television event resurrects David Koresh (Taylor Kitsch), and his Branch Davidians in their 1993 standoff against the federal government.

In this latest trailer, we glimpse the frantic machinations of both Koresh’s cult embedded in their Mount Carmel Center compound and the ATF and FBI preparing to infiltrate it as the tale spirals toward its tragic, inexorable conclusion.

Waco will debut Jan. 24, just six days after Paramount Network launches on Jan. 12. It will join Yellowstone, starring Kevin Costner, American Woman, starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, and a re-imagining of the cult classic Heathers.

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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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