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The decision by MTV in the U.S. to “walk away” from the Jersey Shore franchise a few years ago was “really dumb,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said at a conference in New York on Wednesday where he also discussed recent industry scandals and the company’s turnaround efforts.
“The Matt Lauer news is very sad,” he told Business Insider‘s Ignition conference when asked about the latest example of a well-known industry figure being engulfed in a sexual harassment case just hours after NBC News announced Lauer’s firing. “This is not a Hollywood/media problem,” Bakish said. “This is a problem across all industries, including the U.S. government.” And it is an international problem, he added.
Bakish also emphasized that he hopes the recent slew of harassment and assault cases would turn out to be a “watershed moment” that will bring about change.
Discussing his focus on stabilizing the business of Viacom over the past year after becoming interim and then permanent CEO late last year, Bakish said: “There was a lot of drama. And the company had lost its way a bit.”
He added: “The patient had some issues, and the patient is definitely stabilized.”
Discussing rebooting franchises, Bakish mentioned Paramount’s recent deal for more Terminator movies with James Cameron, saying: You clearly need new fresh product that are different ideas that people haven’t seen before, but you also should benefit from franchises that people love and candidly they continue to consume…. Say what you want, ‘eh, another Terminator movie,’ I bet you it’s going to be a big movie, and you want to be involved with big movies.”
Discussing the Jersey Shore reboot Floribama Shore, Bakish said that the U.S. team walked away from the Shore franchise five years ago, arguing, “that was really dumb.” He highlighted that the new version just started off with the highest original series debut ratings since 2014, delivering a “huge number” in the ratings for MTV.
Mentioning the upcoming just-announced return to the screen of the original Jersey Shore cast in the summer of 2018, he said: “Why you wouldn’t do that is beyond me.”
He also shared that the Shore franchise was “near and dear to my heart,” not because he was born in Jersey, but because when he ran Viacom’s international business, his team saw the opportunity to create local versions of the show that have done really well.
Bakish also said the company has been focusing on boosting its content consumption figures and getting its content out in new ways. Viacom has around 10,000 hours of library content that it doesn’t use, which provides a “significant” opportunity for multiplatform offers, he explained. “There is a real role for these brands in a sea of choice,” but they need new and more expressions, he said.
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