Viacom CEO: ‘Our Brands Coming to Mobile’ in the U.S.

Look for Viacom and its key brands – Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET – to go increasingly mobile in the United States.

Speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab in San Francisco, CEO Bob Bakish said recently announced moves partnering with Spain’s Telefónica making Viacom’s brands available on the telecom’s Movistar Play platform, underscored a need to “export” that strategy in the United States.

“We’re also in a very interesting conversation here in the U.S. right now about bringing our brands to mobile, and I believe that will happen in 2018,” Bakish said.

The executive said the year revolves around growing margins in established businesses, new distribution channels as well as improving synergies among internal brands through consumer products, live-events and incremental studio opportunities.

“We see a clear path toward top-line growth,” Bakish said, adding he expects Paramount growth to materialize in 2019.

The executive said Paramount is transforming from an underleveraged “fiscal mess” in 2016 that “ate over” $1 billion in cash, to a unit with a content library growing more than $300 million in value annually.

Half the studio’s release slate will be franchise sequels, with the remaining branded around Nickelodeon.

Viacom in January rolled of the Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV), an ad-supported service distributing original (“Waco” miniseries, starring Taylor Kitsch as cult leader David Koresh) and catalog content.

Future original series include, “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner; “American Woman,” a single-camera comedy set in the 1970s amid the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism, starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari; and “Heathers” an hour-long pitch-black comedy anthology set in the present day, based on the 1988 cult classic film of the same name.

“[Paramount] is an iconic brand, known all around the world. It’s on a clear path to return to profitability,” Bakish said.

 

 

Viacom CEO: ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ Sale to Netflix a ‘One-Off’ Deal

Following an underperforming legacy film slate, Paramount Pictures jumped at the chance to offload sci-fi drama The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix, according to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish.

The subscription streaming video behemoth — which reportedly paid $50 million for the rights — promptly streamed the third installment in the franchise (following 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016) globally at the conclusion of Super Bowl LII — after paying millions more for a TV commercial aired during the game. A first for a major Hollywood movie.

During the Feb. 8 fiscal call, Bakish described the arrangement —that bypassed theatrical distribution — as “bit of a one-off” deal.

“This was a unique situation that we thought was the right fit for the franchise,” Bakish told analysts. “It allowed us to take advantage of an attractive audience and really create some pretty compelling economics.”

With the domestic launch of the Paramount Network the lone positive for the studio (narrowing operating loss 28% was another) in Q1, the studio has its sights on upcoming tentpole releases Mission: Impossible — FalloutTop Gun: MaverickWorld War Z 2, branded films from Paramount Players (What Men Want, Dora the Explorer) and Paramount Animation (SpongeBob The Movie), and Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog.

Cloverfield Paradox, which received poor reviews and was slated for April release, apparently didn’t make the cut.

“We’re going to continue to focus the vast majority of our releases on traditional theaters, and we see a great opportunity there to take share driven by our ’19 slate and beyond,” Bakish said. “But, given our production capabilities and the landscape, we’re going to continue to look broadly and creatively for opportunities to create additional value for Paramount.”