Viacom Unveils Focus on Flagship Brands, "Deeper Integration" of Paramount Pictures

Viacom Signage - H 2016
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Viacom Signage - H 2016

CEO Bob Bakish unveils strategic changes that "will enable Viacom to realize the full potential of its premier global portfolio of entertainment brands" and says, "there is much work to be done."

Viacom will focus on its six core flagship brands (MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, BET and Paramount) and look for a "deeper integration" of Paramount Pictures with the rest of the company, the entertainment giant said on Thursday.

The news comes as new CEO Bob Bakish continues to put his stamp on the company, controlled by the Redstone family. The announcements were part of Viacom's latest quarterly earnings report.

Among other news unveiled Thursday: Spike TV will be rebranded Paramount Network.

"Today we share a strategy that will enable Viacom to realize the full potential of its premier global portfolio of entertainment brands," Bakish said. "Building on our leading domestic and growing international footprint, this strategy will expand the depth and reach of our flagship brands across multiple platforms and around the world, while also providing for more competitive differentiation and increased adaptability for our business overall. There is much work to be done, but we are confident we have the plan and people to take our brands to greater heights and build a bright future for our company.”

Bakish assumed the Viacom president and CEO role after nixed plans for a Viacom-CBS merger and said he would focus on rejuvenating MTV, which has been losing viewers, Paramount Pictures and moving beyond corporate drama. "MTV, on the USA side, has struggled on the ratings perspective for a number of years," Bakish said recently. 

On Thursday, Viacom unveiled a five-point plan. The five points are:
1. Put the full power of Viacom behind six flagship brands: BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount
2. Revitalize and elevate approach to content and talent
3. Deepen partnerships to drive traditional revenue
4. Make big moves in the digital world and physical world
5. Continue to optimize and energize the organization

"Viacom’s flagship brands will be the company’s highest priorities and will benefit from significant and increased resource commitments. These six brands each have compelling, valuable and distinct brand propositions," the company said. "They serve diverse, substantial audiences with largely owned content, have global reach and distribution potential across linear, digital, film, and consumer products, events and experiences."

And the company added: "Viacom’s other brands — some of which hold strong positions in their categories and maintain diverse and loyal followings — will be realigned to reinforce the six flagship brands."

The company has also "identified opportunities to bring the best of Paramount to the network business, and the best of the network business to Paramount." For example, Paramount’s film slate will now include co-branded releases from each of the flagship brands, along with Paramount branded films focused on franchises, tentpoles and other projects. In an initial step, the company unveiled that Nickelodeon and Paramount will move forward on a slate of four films. The first of these films, Amusement Park, will premiere in theaters in summer 2018 and will launch a TV series on Nickelodeon the following year.

As reported by THR, Spike will be rebranded in early 2018 as The Paramount Network and will serve as "Viacom’s premier general entertainment brand." The Paramount Network will take Spike’s "strong and growing programming expertise and amplify it with the globally recognized Paramount brand, an iconic symbol of cinematic production with a history of rich, compelling storytelling." The network will leverage the best in Viacom original scripted and non-scripted programming and will also incorporate additional high-quality original and third-party programming.

Viacom also announced plans to invest in "new content experiences," and will establish its first-ever dedicated shortform content unit, building on existing programming as well as all-new original IP. In addition, the company plans to further extend the reach of Viacom’s brands through live experiences and consumer products to create "valuable new channels for marketing, talent development and connecting with audiences."