Viacom International Studios to Open in Miami

Viacom International Studios - H 2015
Courtesy of Juan Botera

The 88,000-square-foot studio facility will serve as a production hub for the company’s global network brands, including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central.

Viacom said on Monday that it would open a two-stage production facility in Miami, built by the Miami Omni Community Redevelopment Agency in a public-private partnership with EUE/Screen Gems Studios, amid an increasing volume of productions that the company is doing in the Florida city.

The 88,000-square-foot studio facility in downtown Miami, called Viacom International Studios, will serve as a production hub for Viacom’s global network brands, including Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central. The company said it plans to use it for "global productions in multiple languages," including daily scripted series, music specials, game shows and shortform content for mobile and digital platforms.

"We are creating more content than ever before across all of our brands at Viacom," said Robert Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN). "The Viacom International Studios in Miami will offer a turnkey facility where we can create even more original, high-quality, multi-platform content to meet the increasing demand for long and shortform content on all of our global platforms."

Viacom series currently produced in Miami, where VIMN Americas is headquartered, include Nickelodeon’s telenovela Every Witch Way, now in its fourth season, and the American version of Nickelodeon Latin America show Grachi, and teen sitcom Talia in the Kitchen, a spinoff of Spanish-language Toni, La Chef, which was initially produced for Latin America.

“We have had terrific success with the recent live-action productions we have coming from Miami, and we are very excited to be committed to doing more,” said Cyma Zarghami, president Viacom Kids and Family Group. “We are constantly looking for new creative ideas and content formats that allow us to tell stories in a completely different way, and this facility will certainly forward that effort.”

EUE/Screen Gems will operate the facility, which has been in the works in recent years with an estimated spend of $11.5 million by Miami, under a long-term deal with Miami’s Omni CRA, with Viacom leasing the space.

"Nickelodeon has demonstrated again and again that hits come from all over the world," said Pierluigi Gazzolo, president VIMN Americas and executive vp Nickelodeon International. "With an established track record of multi-lingual hits, including Every Witch Way and Talia in the Kitchen, being produced in Miami for multiple audiences simultaneously, in global collaboration with the U.S. and local Latin American teams, we’re excited to have the opportunity to further expand our production capabilities in the market."

The studio facility features two 15,000-square-foot sound stages, 12 postproduction rooms, 16 dressing rooms, including six star dressing rooms, two makeup rooms, two green rooms, production offices, commissary seating for up to 200, warehouse space and wardrobe rooms with washers and dryers, among other things.

"We welcome Viacom as a long-term partner at our new Miami studios," said Chris Cooney, COO of EUE/Screen Gems Studios. "Our company has worked closely with Viacom to develop a facility worthy of a dynamic content producer."

Gazzolo tells THR that global hits and domestic-to-global formats localized, such as various international versions of Jersey Shore, have had "an incredible effect on ratings. And we have started to remake Latin American shows for the U.S." He explains that having guaranteed studio space will allow the company to do multiple productions at the same time.

He lauded Miami for playing a key role in the production of U.S. Hispanic and Latin American programming. "Talent is easily accessible in Miami," Gazzolo said. "And it is a very accessible city from around the world and allows us to showcase diversity." In addition, the city's production economics are appealing. "Producing in Miami is effective because the production community there knows how to do daily telenovelas, and there are incentives as well," he explains, but adds that Miami complements New York and Hollywood and their infrastructures. "It's not about which city is better," he emphasizes.

"Miami allows for a lot of different scenery," said Russell Hicks, president content development and production at Nickelodeon Group. "It has a different feel. We get a lot of outdoor shots. The city actually becomes a location and character for us." He says the decision to have a studio space was a logical next step for the company amid its recent expansion of production work in Miami. "It is all part of our strategy to find great content everywhere," he said.

Asked about studio facilities where the company has produced its shows, Hicks said: "They have all been wonderful but we needed a little bit more control over productions. And we have been increasing our productions, so we didn’t always have enough space."

Viacom officially takes over the studio space on Nov. 1 and targets first productions to start in January. Gazzolo says there are a handful of projects already in development, with first official announcement expected at a later time.