Here’s How Viacom’s Networks Will Try to Bounce Back in 2016

Comedy Central, MTV and TV Land announce big renewals, new shows

After a rough couple of years for its cable networks, Viacom is trying to finally right the ship in 2016.

Ratings for Viacom's TV networks—including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Spike and VH1—have been falling, declining an estimated 13 percent during the third quarter of 2015 alone. But at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., the company laid out its plan to bounce back this year by renewing its most popular shows and unveiling new series it hopes will draw an audience.

Comedy Central, which lost its sketch-comedy series Key and Peele last year, secured the future of its other two big shows by announcing the renewals of Inside Amy Schumer (Season 4 debuts in April; Season 5 will air next year) and Broad City (which was picked up for fourth and fifth seasons, ahead of Season 3's debut later this spring).

The network is also airing Time Traveling Bong—a miniseries from Broad City's Ilana Glazer about (you guessed it) a magic, time-traveling bong—which premieres April 20. Comedy Central also is planning on a big celebration this year for South Park's 20th season, which will air this fall. It also has a new sex-themed show, Not Safe With Nikki Glaser, premiering Feb. 9.

Kent Alterman, Comedy Central's president of original programming, said The Daily Show has also found its footing under new host Trevor Noah. Thanks to the millennial host, the show has retaken the late-night lead among adults ages 18 to 24 as well as among men ages 18 to 34 and ages 18 to 24. Forty percent of The Daily Show's audience is now watching it on digital platforms, with 2.6 million views a week.

MTV, which is still looking for a Jersey Shore-size hit, is hoping to score big with The Shannara Chronicles, which debuted last night and is based on the best-selling fantasy series of books by Terry Brooks. "We wanted to broaden in scope and demographic," said Mina Lefevre, evp and head of scripted development for MTV, who hopes the show will attract an older, more male audience alongside MTV's core viewers. 

The Shannara Chronicles "will set a new level for fantasy on television," said star John Rhys-Davies.

In more traditional MTV fare, the network is airing Greatest Party Story Ever, which premieres Jan. 14 and retells epic party stories using animation. The network renewed the show for a second season even before the first one premiered, which  "could be a first for MTV," said Lauren Dolgen, head of reality programming and evp of series development.

TV Land has completed its rebranding, ditching its nostalgic multicamera sitcoms—its last remaining one, The Soul Man, will air its fifth and final season this year—for edgier single-camera comedies like Younger (which was renewed today for Season 3), The Jim Gaffigan Show, Impastor and new comedy Teachers (which premieres Jan. 13).

Keith Cox, evp of development and original programming for TV Land, said the rebranding has lowered the network's prime-time median age by seven years, and a new TV Land app, featuring access to full episodes, debuts tomorrow.

The network hopes to continue its momentum by ordering a pilot for Nobodies, a new comedy from Melissa McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone, about a Hollywood group of friends who are tested after some of them become successful. McCarthy and Falcone will direct the pilot, and McCarthy will guest star on the show if it's picked up as a series.

Stephen Hill, president of programming at BET, said the network is now a top 15 network in the 18-to-49 demo. After announcing a Season 4 renewal for Being Mary Jane, BET focused on two new series: Zoe Ever After, which stars Brandy Norwood and debuted last night ("It's Moesha all grown up," said Hill, referencing her first TV role), and Chasing Destiny, a reality-competition show about the creation of a new girl group that host and executive producer Kelly Rowland insisted "is not a reality competition show."