Viacom CEO Bob Bakish on Thursday outlined radical changes at the media giant's core flagship brands, including making MTV more cheerful and positive under new head Chris McCarthy.
"It's not going to be dark. It's going to be upbeat, because research says that's what people need," Bakish told the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference about a revamped MTV during a session that was webcast. "You can think about your day-to-day life and the news you're watching. Upbeat will be a good thing. MTV will be a positive force," he added.
Bakish also told investors about the media conglomerate being in “very advanced discussions” to create an entertainment package of channels available to consumers for $10 to $20 a month. "That will be a very exciting development in the marketplace, and is a very positive development for Viacom," he said.
Bakish argued a cheaper bundle of entertainment-only TV channels could help attract U.S. households without pay TV subscriptions, or those trading down from more expensive $100 a-month cable packages or emerging $40 a-month packages that aren't profitable for content distributors.
Additionally, Bakish told market watchers about Viacom's new push to dramatically focus and renew core assets at the embattled cable giant, like Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central and BET, to better position them for an emerging digital universe. He reported MTV is rejiggering its programming mix once again, restoring more unscripted fare like Prom Proposal and a new version of My Super Sweet 16, after five years where MTV lost eyeballs as it focused on too much scripted fare.
The early moves are showing promise, Bakish told investors. "We've had some impact, cleaning up the schedule.... The real exciting track starts now when we introduce new product," he added, pointing to 11 new shows arriving this summer and fall.
Bakish also talked up Paramount Network, one of six core networks identified as part of Viacom's plan to turn around the media giant. He said the previous Spike channel, set to be rebranded as Paramount Network, skewed too male to provide a platform for balanced male and female viewing.
What's more, when Paramount Network launches in January 2018, it will have a critical mass of programming. "We want the U.S. consumer to really see the power of the Paramount brand and its storytelling and its high production values come to life in a big way," he told investors.
The Paramount Network rebranding will include more high-quality scripted series, including comedy, and unscripted programming. Also joining the lineup would be tentpole movies from both Paramount Pictures and outside studios so Viacom's iconic film studio becomes more integrated into the overall media conglomerate.
The Paramount Network slate will include American Woman, starring Alicia Silverstone, and Yellowstone, featuring Kevin Costner returning to the small screen. "We are early on in this transition. But we're seeing some green shoots and the initiatives are in place to grow audience share," Bakish added, summing up his strategy to reinvigorate the slate of Viacom brands.
The Viacom boss, who recently took the helm after a merger with CBS was nixed, also reiterated the media conglomerate will take action against Charter Communications after assets like MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, BET and Spike were taken out of its basic tier for new subscribers.
"That's something that we firmly believe they (Charter) don't have a right to do. We have to get that resolved, one way or another," Bakish said.