Facebook Watch Has a Big Consumer Awareness Problem

As Verizon, Spotify, AwesomenessTV and many others have shown, building a premium video business is no easy task. Most fail. And on its first birthday, according to publishers who spoke with VideoInk (acquired by TheWrap in 2018), Facebook Watch is clo…

How an Embrace of Digital Media Helped Viacom Get Its Groove Back

When Bob Bakish took the reins at Viacom less than two years ago, the media giant had a big problem — the “MTV Generation” had long passed, and it was struggling to get its shows in front of young viewers. Television wasn’t the only game in town anymore.

“This is a generation that grew up swiping before they wiped,” as Jacqueline Parkes, CMO and EVP of Digital Studios at MTV, VH1 and Logo, put it at The Grill at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills on Monday. “They don’t make the distinction [between] a television or their iPhone or their desktop — when they see the content they want, they’re going to embrace that content.”

Viacom has since looked to target young viewers where they are in 2018. It’s doubled down on YouTube — with “Wild ‘n Out,” its sketch comedy show, growing its channel from 1.1 million to 2.5 million followers in three months earlier this year. Its Instagram accounts have ballooned “300 percent,” and its leveraging Snapchat to draw more teens back to its brands. It’s not an either-or scenario for Viacom when it comes to linear versus digital media, Parkes said, but rather finding a way for them to compliment each other.

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That symbiotic relationship is clear to Wattpad head of content, Eric Lehrman. His platform allows creators to write stories “chapter to chapter” — which lets Wattpad’s 65 million users “interact with the authors as the story builds.” That interaction feeds its stories and often influences how they’re shaped. It’s a near real-time feedback that highlights the strength of digital.

And to Lehrman, another strength is that creators aren’t reliant on the traditional gatekeepers to build their audience and catch their big break. Lehrman pointed to the teen rom-com “The Kissing Booth,” which hauled in 19 million readers on Wattpad. The story — written by a 15-year-old from Wales, Lehrman noted — led to it becoming a Netflix Original movie this year.

With audiences growing more comfortable finding their favorite shows online, the trend towards long-form digital content could continue. Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu, said his company has seen “massive engagement” with Stories — the popular feature on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat that allows users to curate a thread of pictures and video. Users are “moving away from headline, snippet stuff” to dive “deeper” into Stories. To Hyrkin, that shift shows that users are willing to watch more than short-form shows, as long as the content is engaging. And since Stories has been primarily driven by amateur creators, there remains an opening for established studios to make their mark.

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“The majority of story content is still user generated, relatively inconsistent, and not necessarily brand friendly,” Hyrkin said at TheGrill. “The format is established, but we’ll start to see increasing high-quality professional content.”

Parkes echoed that thought, saying networks have reached a “tipping point where quality stands out.” Viewers have an endless amount of options now. To achieve digital success, networks have to not only hit viewers where they are, but with something they’ll want to see again and again. “At the end of the day, quality content wins.”

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TheWrap Acquires VideoInk, Adds Subscription Business With Digital Video Focus

TheWrap News Inc. on Thursday announced the acquisition of VideoInk, Inc., the go-to source for business news about the fast-growing digital video industry.

The acquisition represents TheWrap’s first foray into a subscription business model, super-serving its core business readers with highly relevant content on the site, networking through live events and professional insight via services like video webinars.

These offerings have already been included in VideoInk’s membership. Building on that foundation, TheWrap also announced plans to launch a new premium subscription product in the coming weeks.

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VideoInk, founded in 2012 by Jocelyn Johnson, was also early to implement a subscription model tailored toward executives working in and powering the business of “digital Hollywood.”

Johnson joins TheWrap as director of membership and digital video news, leading the new subscription initiative and building greater community around the digital video business through news, live events and education. Existing VideoInk subscribers will be offered a suite of new benefits as the service re-launches.

“I’m excited to merge our business with the highly engaged community that Jocelyn has built at VideoInk, and it is the perfect foundation for the coming WrapPRO service,” Sharon Waxman, the founder and CEO of TheWrap, said in a statement. “The fact that Jocelyn is also a female founder makes this deal all the more gratifying.”

Johnson added, “Since launching subscription we’ve seen that exclusive access, deep intel and community are of high value to our readers. We’ve built a nice foundation for that business to grow and with TheWrap’s scale, existing events and seasoned editorial, we’re excited to accelerate that growth. Also, Sharon and I have a shared vision for the future of media, and I’m looking forward to work alongside her and the team to bring that vision to life.”

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In just a year, the media startup VideoInk has grown its subscriber base to include teams and executives from Fox, A&E Networks, Warner Brothers, Amazon, Verizon, Hulu, Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Snap, Adobe, WME and CAA.

For VideoInk, the business has seen strong growth over the last few years as leading media companies like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Facebook, YouTube, Verizon and AT&T, among others, have taken heavy swings at Hollywood.

Many of those headlines, including Viacom’s recent acquisition of AwesomenessTV have been scooped by VideoInk, and Johnson.

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‘Yellowstone’ Is Paramount Network’s Most-Watched Show – Yes, Counting the Spike TV Years

Yellowstone is a national park. “Yellowstone” may be a national treasure — or at least, the drama series is to the new Paramount Network.

With its Season 1 finale looming on Wednesday, the first series developed by the rebranded cable channel has averaged 5.0 million total viewers each week, per Nielsen’s most current ratings, which counts seven days of delayed viewing where available. That makes it the second most-watched series on all of cable television, behind only AMC’s “Walking Dead.”

It also makes “Yellowstone” the channel’s most-watched series ever — and that includes the network’s Spike TV days. No wonder Paramount already renewed its prized pony.

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In terms of ratings, “Yellowstone” has averaged a 1.42 among adults 18-49, which is the demographic most-coveted by advertisers.

Below is a nifty grid showing off the cable series rankings across the 52-week 2017-18 TV season. This one ranks series by Nielsen’s Live + 3 Day metric, which counts 72-hours worth of delayed viewing.


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Sidebar: Who knew “Curse of Oak Island” did so well? And how about those Hallmark shows? Yes, this story is about “Yellowstone,” but one more mini-tangent: See that discrepancy between the No. 1 and No. 2 shows above? Anyone who declares “The Walking Dead” to be dead is dead between the ears.

OK, back to the main subject here. One last brag on behalf of the Paramount Network: On digital platforms, “Yellowstone” has generated nearly 10 million streams on Viacom owned-and-operated platforms, as well as 6.8 million video-on-demand transactions.

Yippee-Ki-Yay, indeed.

The “Yellowstone” Season 1 finale airs Wednesday night at 10/9c on Paramount Network.

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Viacom Q3 Tops Wall Street Earnings Forecasts, But Misses on Revenue

Viacom had mixed bag for its fiscal third quarter 2018, topping Wall Street’s earnings forecast, but missing on revenue.

For the three months ending June 30, the film and TV conglomerate reported revenue of $3.24 billion and an adjusted diluted earnings-per-share of $1.18. Media analysts had forecast earnings per share (EPS) of $1.07 and $3.26 billion in revenue, according to a Yahoo Finance-compiled consensus.

During the same quarter of last year, Viacom reeled in $3.36 billion in revenue and earnings of $1.17 a share.

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“Viacom produced another quarter of strong progress, with clear evidence that our turnaround is delivering results and that our evolution into a truly global, multiplatform, brand- and IP-driven entertainment company is well underway,” said CEO Bob Bakish. “Paramount Pictures is revitalized, with outstanding box office performance and growing television production revenues driving substantial gains in profitability. Our Media Networks brands posted significant gains in both linear flagship share and digital consumption, in addition to sequential improvements in domestic affiliate revenue growth.”

Cost-cutting helped offset a 4 percent decline in revenue from the previous quarter, while programming spending increased.

Revenues for Viacom’s media networks decreased 2 percent to $2.5 billion in the quarter, as a 17 percent increase in worldwide ancillary revenues to $158 million was more than offset by a 4 percent decrease in worldwide advertising revenues to $1.19 billion and a 3 percent decrease in worldwide affiliate revenues to $1.15 billion.

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Domestic theatrical revenues grew 58 percent, driven by the strong performance of “A Quiet Place” and “Book Club,” while international theatrical revenues decreased 58 percent, reflecting comparisons against the release of “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Ghost in the Shell” in the prior year quarter.

However, its operating profit rose to $44 million, compared to just $9 million a year ago, thanks to lower operating expenses and higher domestic revenues. “A Quiet Place” has grossed more than $188 million domestically to date, making it the second highest grossing horror film in the U.S. over the past decade. The film has so far earned more than $332 million at the worldwide.

“In the quarter, Viacom concluded a strong advertising upfront that combined robust price increases, as well as improved packaging that included increased demand for our advanced marketing solutions,” continued Bakish. “Additionally, we continued to diversify our business with growth in worldwide live event attendance and the expansion of a cross-company studio production initiative that leverages our sizable creative assets and global capabilities to drive incremental opportunities.”

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Bakish concluded: “This improvement in operating performance –combined with meaningful actions over the past 18 months to de-lever our balance sheet –have resulted in a stronger credit profile to help support Viacom’s return to long-term sustainable growth. We remain focused on building this momentum with an even stronger September quarter as we continue to position Viacom for the future.”

Shares of Viacom were up slightly to $28.75 in pre-market trading on Thursday. They closed at $28.62 on Wednesday, down from the $29.12 it opened with. The market opens for regular trading at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Viacom will hold a conference call at 8:30 a.m. ET to discuss the results.

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Kelsey Grammer Told Original ‘Frasier’ Cast He’d Want Them for a Reboot

If Dr. Frasier Crane were to return to television in a reboot of “Frasier,” Kelsey Grammer wants Niles, Daphne and Roz along for the ride.

“I let them know if there were to be such a thing, I would want them all to still be in there,” Grammer told TheWrap. Sadly, any potential reboot would not include John Mahoney, who played gruff family patriarch Martin Crane, who died in February at age 77. That fact alone caused an outcry among “Frasier” fans.

Last week, TheWrap reported that Grammer was exploring a potential reboot of “Frasier.” The end of the series in 2004 saw Dr. Crane board a plane leaving Seattle for Chicago, so the character already had one foot out the door of The Great Northwest. “I don’t want to go back to Seattle,” Grammer said, confirming any potential reboot would be set in a new location.

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Talks about a potential reboot actually started a few years ago, around the same time revivals of classic TV shows were starting to pop up. “Conversations were had with NBC, some conversations were had with CBS,” said Grammer, adding that those early talks were “exploratory.” The business end of the show (it aired on NBC but is owned by CBS TV Studios) also poses obstacles, he said. “The only thing going for it is that he was a great, memorable character. It was a great show.”

The past few years have seen revivals of classic TV sitcoms including “Roseanne,” “Will & Grace” and “Murphy Brown” — which returns to CBS this fall. And Grammer said he knows why TV networks are turning back the clock.

“Because TV sucks,” he said. “There are not comparable comedies to what there were in the golden age.”

Though it appears that the classic TV format is making a comeback, don’t order that tossed salad and scrambled eggs just yet.

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“We’ve talked to a couple of writers who are working on an idea,” he said. “If the writing for the revival becomes what it was previously, that would it make it interesting enough to think about it. We’re not at the stage yet.”

“Frasier” aired on NBC for 11 seasons from 1993-2004 as part of NBC’s “Must See Thursday” comedy block. It was itself a spinoff of “Cheers,” which saw Dr. Frasier Crane move from Boston to Seattle. Grammer has played the character for 20 years between the two shows.

Due to CBS’ ownership of the sitcom, any comeback could see the show switch broadcast networks. Speaking with reporters after his TCA panel for Fox’s “Proven Innocent,” Grammer hinted that NBC would not be interested.

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Ex-Lionsgate Co-President Steve Beeks Tapped by Lantern Entertainment Ahead of Weinstein Co Deal Closing

Ahead of finalizing its $289 million deal to buy The Weinstein Co., Lantern Entertainment has tapped industry veterans Steve Beeks, Alexa Platt and Lauren Zalaznick to consult for the company as it looks to revive the film studio.

Lantern Capital co-founders Andy Mitchell and Milos Brajovic, which owns and operates Lantern Entertainment, said in a statement that in their roles as advisors, they will “help position the new company for a creative and strategic future in the development, production and delivery of quality content across all platforms.”

“As we close this transaction in the coming days, these industry experts will help us implement a thoughtful strategy to launch Lantern Entertainment,” Mitchell and Brajovic said. “We have such tremendous respect for Alexa, Lauren and Steve. This further underscores our commitment to engage the best in the business in this formative stage of the new company.”

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Beeks has helped lead multiple turn-around efforts and most recently served as co-president and co-chief operating officer of Lionsgate Entertainment. There he coordinated all aspects of production, acquisition and distribution. Beeks was instrumental in leading growth from approximately $380 million in revenue to $4.3 billion in 14 years at Lionsgate.

Platt was previously chief financial officer for Open Road Films, and head of finance at AwesomenessTV where she managed the financial operations and strategic planning for the YouTube multichannel network. Prior to Open Road, Platt worked at Paramount and TWC.

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Zalaznick is an award-winning indie film producer and recently served as executive vice president at NBCUniversal. She led the entertainment and digital networks portfolio. During her tenure, Zalaznick was integral in Telemundo securing the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. Zalaznick led Bravo Media to garner the first-ever Emmy Award nominations and a win for a cable network in the primetime category of Competitive Reality, for “Project Runway” and “Top Chef.”

Last week, Lantern and TWC reached an agreement with the unsecured creditors committee to resolve their concerns.

The companies said the sale price would be reduced to $289 million, cutting the initial $310 million price by $21 million, rather than the $23 million reduction the companies had previously considered.

“The resolution also includes, among other things, Lantern’s agreement to make numerous cure payments for contracts it is assuming in the sale — an issue that was important in resolving the concerns of unsecured creditors,” TWC said in a statement last week.

The sale is expected to close on Wednesday, but is subject to approval by a bankruptcy court following a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern on July 11.

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Beavis and Butt-Head Return to Mock Bearded Indie Band: ‘This Much Pretension’ (Video)

Alt rock band Portugal. The Man. is opening their shows on tour with one of their music video, featuring a custom edit from “Beavis and Butt-Head” creator Mike Judge.

In the clip, Beavis and Butt-Head, of 1990s animated sitcom fame, provide a running commentary for the band’s music video of the chart-topping “Feel It Still,” which received the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

“This does suck, but this sucks so hard that it sucked a hole through the dimensional wall into awesomeness,” Butt-Head says in the video. “When you compress this much crap under the force of this much pretension, you create a beautiful diamond.”

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Butt-Head goes on to declare Portugal. The Man. as “the greatest band that has ever walked the Earth,” adding, “but they do not walk the Earth, they float above it, for they are as Gods. They are better than The Beatles, better than The Rolling Stones, better than Silverchair, almost as good as Pantera. They are our rightful lords and masters. Ladies and gentlemen, bow down to the greatest band in the world, Portugal. The Man.”

“Beavis & Butt-Head” ran on MTV from 1993 to 1997, and was later renewed for an eighth season in 2011. Judge edited the music video featuring the characters’ return himself, earning a thank-you from Portugal. The Man. on Twitter.

Mike Judge is fantastic and we love him for this. https://t.co/GzyoyoUZP4 – Beavis & Butthead Concert Opening. ⁦@brooklynvegan⁩ ⁦@consequence⁩ ⁦@Dazed⁩ ⁦@Complex⁩ ⁦@PigsAndPlans⁩ ⁦@pinwheelempire⁩ ⁦@trailblazershttps://t.co/5mffiMUSiL

— LORDS OF PORTLAND (@portugaltheman) June 26, 2018

Portugal. The Man formed in Alaska in 2002 and spent years touring the country, but their ascent to fame came in 2017, when they shot to the top of the charts with their smash hit “Feel it Still,” which has been streamed more than 200 million times and became the first song to hold the top spot on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart for more than 20 weeks. The band performed on the main stage of Coachella ahead of headliner Eminem in April and is now in the middle of an international tour.

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Paramount Players to Develop ‘Creepy Crawlers’ Feature Film

Paramount Players has picked up the film rights to “Creepy Crawlers,” the iconic toy brand owned by JAKKS Pacific, the two companies announced Wednesday.

“Creepy Crawlers has been an iconic brand since the 1960’s and we are honored to work with Neal Moritz, Paramount Players, and the Nickelodeon-Viacom Family in bringing it to life on the big screen,” said Stephen Berman, chairman & CEO of JAKKS Pacific. “We, and the studio, envision the property to be developed into a family adventure film in the vein of ‘Jumanji.’”

Neal H. Moritz is set to produce alongside Marc Gurvitz. Toby Ascher and Berman will serve as executive producers.

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Plot details are unknown at this time, but the film is set to be based on the toy molds developed originally by Mattel in the early ’60s. The toy was then reimagined by ToyMax in the ’90s and allowed to children to create various bug-like creatures.

JAKKS Pacific’s other brands include BIG-FIGS, Max Tow, Disguise, Moose Mountain, Funnoodle and Kids Only!

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Ali Bell and Royce Reeves-Darby will be overseeing for Paramount Players. In recent years, Paramount has taken popular toys like Transformers and G.I. Joe and made them into movies.

Additionally, Moritz recently adapted the popular kids’ book series “Goosebumps” for Sony.

A spokesperson for Paramount has not yet responded to TheWrap’s request for comment.

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Hulu Signs Exclusive Deal With Vice Media, Adds 15 Viceland Shows to Lineup

Hulu is adding 150 hours of original Viceland shows after the company announced a deal on Thursday making it the exclusive streaming home of Vice Media’s youth-focused cable channel.

The subscription video-on-demand partnership is the first of its kind for Vice. Hulu will add 15 Viceland shows to its lineup as part of the deal, including “Gaycation,” the Ellen Page-hosted look at LGBTQ communities, Gloria Steinem’s “Woman,” and “What Would Diplo Do?” featuring James Van Der Beek in a parody of the famous DJ.

The Viceland slate will be available on Hulu on June 8.

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“Our viewers love watching thought-provoking reality series on Hulu, and partnering with Viceland is yet another way we’re building the most valuable content offering for fans of unscripted programming,” said Lisa Holme, Hulu’s VP of content acquisition, in a statement. “Viceland has consistently created and produced stories that explore the cutting-edge, culturally-relevant topics that Hulu’s young and passionate audience craves, and we’re excited to be the very first to offer their shows in a subscription on-demand environment.”

Viceland launched in 2016 as a joint venture between Vice and A+E Networks. The channel focuses on millennial and Gen Z viewers, with its “Desus and Mero” show and partnerships with celebrities like Action Bronson among others. Viceland has struggled to gain a ratings foothold in its two years on air, although the company said in a release that its ratings have increased 26 percent year-over-year for the 18-49 demo.

“Viceland is a key part of expanding on VICE’s ongoing commitment to create the most compelling and unique content young viewers can’t find anywhere else,” said Viceland president Guy Slattery in a statement. “We’re excited to have Hulu as a platform partner to continue widening the audiences for our shows.”

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The deal comes as part of an affiliate agreement that Hulu and A+E Networks signed in March 2017, bringing six original A+E brands to the streaming service.

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Hulu Circles ‘Looking for Alaska’ Limited Series from Josh Schwartz, Paramount TV

Josh Schwartz is finally getting John Green’s “Looking For Alaska” off the page and onto the screen.

Hulu is in the midst of closing a deal with Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s Fake Empire and Paramount Television for an eight-episode limited series based on the book, insiders with knowledge of the project tell TheWrap.

“The O.C.” producer, who has been working to adapt Green’s best-selling young adult novel for over a decade, penned the pilot and will serve as executive producer and showrunner. Green, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters and Marty Bowen of Temple Hill will also executive produce, along with Fake Empire’s Lis Rowinski as co-executive produce.

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“Looking for Alaska” is told through the perspective of teen Miles “Pudge” Halter, as he enrolls in a boarding school to try to gain a deeper understanding of life. He meets Alaska Young, a student who he falls in love with while she guides him through his personal “labyrinth of suffering” throughout the school year. When Alaska unexpectedly dies, Miles must work through his grief as he and his other close friends work to uncover the truth behind Alaska’s death.

The project has gone through many incarnations since Schwartz first received the then-unpublished manuscript for “The Fault in Our Stars” author’s debut novel in 2005, with former Paramount Pictures boss Gail Berman originally purchasing the rights for Schwartz to write and potentially direct a feature and Paramount TV president Amy Powell helping to move the project from the feature division to TV.

The limited series marks Schwartz and Savage’s second project at the streaming service, along with “Marvel’s Runaways,” which was renewed for a Season 2.

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Schwartz, Savage and Fake Empire are repped by WME and attorney Joel McKuin. Schwartz is additionally repped by Mikkel Bondesen.

Deadline first reported the news.

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