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Dealing with increased competition

Viacom International Media Network’s Caroline Beaton talks to C21 Screenings about the company’s progress over the last year.

You can visit Viacom International Media Network’s C21Screenings suite by clicking here.

Caroline BeatonC21: What programming currently defines your approach to market?
Beaton: We are very proud of our long-established reputation as market leaders in the kids and family space, as well as super-serving the 16-34 MTV generation.

We look forward to introducing our buyers to a host of brand new titles, adding to an increasing volume of high quality content that spans an ever-broader demographic range, even beyond our historical core strengths. Our current programming catalogue is more robust than ever with a healthy mix of kids, comedy, formats, reality and factual content. The addition of Spike, Channel 5 and UK-commissioned comedy content over the past year to our portfolio has expanded our appeal to an even wider global audience.


C21: What have been your most successful shows of the past six months and why? (Do they represent a trend, or a particular change in direction etc.?)
Beaton: Lip Sync Battle (LSB) from our Spike catalogue is our most successful format launch to date. The incredibly popular series represents the evolution of reality competition shows, by recognizing the huge potential of a short form piece of IP that went viral on the back of a late night network television in the US, and developing it into a prime time, long form international hit series.

The launch of the show earlier this year at MIPTV 2015 was meteoric, with multiple local version deals signed and in production by Summer 2015, and the format now licensed in more than 30 territories. The overwhelming interest we’ve received to date makes Lip Sync Battle a very exciting addition to our format portfolio, which typically derives success from its popular MTV titles, including Ex On The Beach and Are You The One, and MTV’s latest addition (launching at MIPCOM) Say It In Song.

Our Nickelodeon content also continues to go from strength to strength, with recent break-out hits from our pre-school catalogue, including established hit PAW Patrol, which has so far been sold into 108 markets, and the more recent launch of Dora & Friends: Into the City which already airs across 25 major international markets.

C21: What changes in programming strategy have defined your business in the past year?
Beaton: It is very clear to us that our buyers need greater flexibility to be able to maximize and capitalize on the true value of our content. As viewers are shifting their viewing habits and consuming content on demand (particularly millennials who make up a large portion of our viewership), there is a greater need than ever before for content accessibility across multiple devices.

Kids too are proving to be one of the fastest groups to turn to applications and mobile devices to watch programs, so we have responded to the demands of even our very youngest viewers by structuring licensing agreements that correctly reflect the needs of the changing marketplace and also properly monetize these rights.

Whether providing content for kids or adults, Viacom’s programming strategy endeavors to be truly platform agnostic – considering the best positioning for each show editorially, with the consistent aim of meeting viewers where they want to be met and selling as our buyers are buying.


C21: Outline your current catalogue and which shows are working best.
Beaton: Nickelodeon’s portfolio of award-winning kids’ content continues to be the mainstay of our business. Iconic evergreen animations including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – and more recent additions, including PAW Patrol and Blaze and the Monster Machines – continue to generate big numbers, which translates well into consumer product sales. Viacom’s recent incarnation of the Dora franchise, Dora and Friends: Into the City, is garnering particular interest with our older preschool audience, enabling Nickelodeon’s youngest fans to grow up with Dora.

Viacom has also witnessed an upswing in the volume of kids’ live action, with popular hits, including 100 Things to Do Before High School (launching at MIPCOM), Every Witch Way (already in its third series) and successful spin-off series, Talia in the Kitchen.

LipSyncBattleFrom the Spike portfolio, Lip Sync Battle (which launched in April 2015) is Viacom’s highest rating unscripted launch EVER, watched by 54 million viewers in the US, 1.4 million on Spike UK and 121 million views on YouTube.

The latest additions to the Comedy Central line-up, including the hotly anticipated Daily Show with Trevor Noah and UK original scripted commissions I Live With Models and Brotherhood, are continuing to draw interest from broadcasters around the world, as are popular formats including Drunk History (already a successful local production for Comedy Central UK) and The Daily Show (about to be locally produced in Georgia). Comedy Central is also extremely proud to have played a significant role in the success of its on-screen talent including Amy Schumer and Key and Peele.

Finally, Viacom’s portfolio of MTV competitive reality series have gained significant traction internationally in recent months with local versions produced and on air including MTV’s Are You The One in Denmark and Ex On The Beach in Sweden.


C21: What does the next six months have in store and how are you developing your business to meet changing demands?
Beaton: The content business is evolving at a ferocious pace, which creates a number of exciting opportunities for all involved. In order to keep up and capitalize on new developments, it’s paramount that everything we do directly reflects both how viewers are viewing content and how buyers are buying programming. To remain successful in an increasingly competitive landscape, it’s important to stay on top of the changing needs of the marketplace and to respond accordingly. We are constantly fine-tuning our in-the-field approach, client by client, country by country, show by show, platform by platform, in order to provide the very best content, and make it accessible for our audiences anytime, anywhere.


C21: What new shows are coming down the line that you think will succeed and why?
Beaton: The relaunch of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah is of course one of the most hotly anticipated and eagerly awaited moments of the Viacom calendar. Introducing Noah to our audiences will be extremely exciting and we are confident that he will bring a new, decidedly international spin to what is already one of the most successful franchises on TV. Comedy Central has an incredible track record of successfully nurturing some of the best young comedic talent into superstars and we are confident that Noah will be the very latest example of this.

Nickelodeon’s brand new live action series Game Shakers, developed by the legendary creator Dan Schneider, is also premiering this September. The show centers around the trials and tribulations of a group of pre-teens who develop the most popular mobile game of the year, but who must also maintain their straight-A grades.

MTV’s brand new music-driven reality series, Say It In Song, hosted by the ever-eccentric and engaging Red Foo, is another exciting addition to our schedules. With a simple yet hugely entertaining concept – featuring contestants who have to use specific songs to get an important message across – we are expecting audiences everywhere to want to join in the hilarity of this brand new, captivating series.

Finally, Spike UK’s recent commission, Tattoo Disasters – which is already the fourth highest rating series for 16-24s in the UK, since launching in April 2015 – will certainly satisfy our audiences’ prurient curiosity for things that go wrong, taking a close look at regretful ink jobs and their fixes.


C21: Which markets have shown most success for you and how are you developing new business?
Beaton: We’re thrilled to have witnessed great success over the last year across all our brands and international markets, demonstrating the unrivalled ability of Viacom’s content to cross borders and excite and engage audiences everywhere.

Most recently our comedy programming is making significant waves in Australia as a result of our long-standing relationship with Foxtel who acquire the bulk of our Comedy Central output.

Asia is also an exciting market that continues to provide a number of new distribution opportunities – particularly in China – with the rapid increase in the number of OTT platforms significantly expanding our access to the market.

In Europe, France continues to be a key market with our long-standing relationship with market leaderTF1 continuing to reflect the power and quality of our kids content; resulting in the recent renewal of our Nickelodeon output deal on the nations number one kids slot (with 25% market share) Tfou.


C21: What is your mission during the next year and what can channels expect from your company?
Beaton: Our overarching mission is to continue to deliver the highest quality content for viewers across all platforms.

For our kid audience, we will continue to deliver smart, funny, and diverse Nickelodeon content with truly global appeal and remain committed to championing new creative talent – both on and off screen. We especially look forward to unearthing and developing more series born outside of the US, following in the footsteps of successful series, including Talia in the Kitchen (originating in Latam) and The Ludwigs (The Netherlands).

For 16-34s, we will continue to produce and deliver the very best, high quality, captivating and engaging general entertainment across our MTV, Spike and Comedy Central brands. Whether it’s jaw-dropping reality or laugh-out-loud lip-syncing celebrities, our audiences will be able to watch, engage, share and enjoy a host of new multi-platform content offerings coming down the pike.

Where comedy is concerned, buyers and viewers can expect to enjoy the same caliber of top-quality comedy series (spanning sketch shows, live action, irreverent news panel shows and animation) that they have come to know and love, including brand new additions Another Period, think Downton Abbey meets the Kardashians, and Moonbeam City, starring Rob Lowe. We look forward to continuing to work with the very best production companies in the business, including Will Ferrell’s Funny or Die and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour, to deliver even more great, irreverent comedy for grown-ups (and the not so grown up!)


C21: What are the biggest challenges going forwards and how are you going to meet them?
Beaton: The biggest challenge in the marketplace is competition – today’s landscape is flooded with good quality programming coming from a number of different platforms and outlets, all fighting for our audience’s attention. This presents both a blessing and curse. A blessing for those of us that love to watch great content and a curse for those of us selling it!

Because of this, we are determined to stay at the top of our game and continue to produce and distribute only the absolute best, high quality content. We will also must remain agile and respond quickly to viewers changing needs and demands. It’s inevitable that the wish lists of programmers and platforms will continue to evolve and change, often quickly, so we intend to keep reacting accordingly and by ensuring our programming and distribution strategies remain fluid and adaptable and that our “best in class” reputation is maintained.

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