Viacom Digital Studios Partners With Twitter and Expands VidCon to London

Company rolls out two dozen shows for YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram

MTV's YouTube series Cooking in the Crib With Snooki will feature the Jersey Shore star. MTV
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Just six months after its creation, Viacom Digital Studios made its NewFronts debut today with an ambitious slate that included two dozen shows based on Viacom’s biggest networks for a variety of digital and social platforms, an expansion of its newly-purchased VidCon and content partnerships with Twitter and Snap, Inc.

During its inaugural NewFronts event this afternoon, held at New York’s The Lighthouse and packed with high-energy appearances from digital stars like JoJo Siwa and Liza Koshy, Viacom Digital Studios made the case to buyers that it can take Viacom’s pop culture expertise and help marketers reach younger audiences on non-linear platforms.

“It is about the power of all these resources that Viacom has always had in the family, and this incredible reach and scale and these brands, but now we’re really powering it into making a big investment and a big impact in digital,” Kelly Day, president, Viacom Digital Studios, told Adweek.

Day has been participating in Viacom’s agency upfront dinners all month to talk about the fledging Viacom Digital Studios, which creates short-form and long-form content for Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

“Being successful in programming to digital audiences starts with partnering with great talent. Because ultimately, that’s who audiences want to connect with, and brands want to be associated with great talent who they know can deliver audiences,” said Day.

The company’s slate, which includes hundreds of hours of content from BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, features a mix of stars from network shows (JoJo Siwa and Jace Norman from Nickelodeon or Snooki on MTV) and digital talents like Jay Versace and Akilah Hughes.

During the event, Day talked about Viacom’s expanded partnership with Snap, which was announced last week, as well as a new deal with Twitter to create daily news shows with MTV, BET and Comedy Central, each of which will reflect that network’s unique perspective.

BET Breaks will offer African-American perspective on breaking music, entertainment and sports news stories and Twitter trending topics, Comedy Central’s Creator’s Room features comedic takes on pop culture news and MTV News (and a second series, MTV News International) will feature daily reports on important issues.

Viacom is also expanding VidCon, the world’s largest conference for YouTube and other online video content producers, which it purchased two months ago.

“When we acquired VidCon, obviously it was to connect with talent and fans more deeply … [but also,] how do we expand what VidCon can be?” said Day.

So Viacom will bring the event to London at the ExCel Center Feb. 14–17.

“Being successful in programming to digital audiences starts with partnering with great talent.”
Kelly Day, president, Viacom Digital Studios

At the same time, it will be building buzz for VidCon with the new MTV YouTube series Road to VidCon, which will follow a young creator heading to the annual U.S. event, set for Anaheim, Calif., in June. “What we want to do following that is build much more of a 365-day-a-year presence for VidCon, with other shows and programs, so hopefully this is just the beginning,” said Day.

Viacom Digital Studios is creating programming unique to each platform: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all world, we have to program to the platform with the talent and the formats that are going to work there,” she said.

The company is making daily news shows for Twitter because that platform “is the watercooler of the internet,” says Day. Snapchat, meanwhile, “is much more series-driven” and focuses on programs for teen culture, said Day. While some media companies have drifted away from Snapchat, “that was us reiterating that we’re all in on Snap.”

New digital shows

Here are the highlights of the new programming Viacom Digital Studios announced today, all of which will roll out during the next few months:

BET has The Majah Hype Show (YouTube), a weekly sketch comedy show hosted by the comedian, and Freestyle Friday (YouTube, Facebook), a revival of the segment from BET’s 106 & Park in which emcees participate in an open mic session. Viacom just signed YouTube stars De’arra and Ken to create and star in original shows for BET Digital.

Comedy Central’s new series include a pair of shows from The Creators Program, a team of five comics (picked from 1,000 applicants) that will write, produce and star in two new series for the network’s social platforms: a daily show in which they discuss trending news and Comedy Central, a weekly scripted workplace comedy set inside Comedy Central’s New York headquarters. There’s also Meet Your First Black Girlfriend (YouTube, Facebook) in which Akilah Hughes talks about dating outside her race.

In addition to bringing back Girl Code for Snapchat, MTV created a longer-format version of the show for YouTube called Teen Code in which teens and influencers discuss real-life issues. Fab or Fad (YouTube) examines beauty, fitness and lifestyle trends to determine which are legitimate.

MTV is also expanding its Cribs franchise, which will return to Snapchat this fall, with the YouTube offshoot Cooking in the Crib With Snooki, which will feature the Jersey Shore (and now Jersey Shore Family Vacation) star in the kitchen.

“On YouTube, with the MTV brand, we’re leaning more heavily into lifestyle and DIY and cooking. Jersey Shore is having a giant moment right now, and doing this funny, irreverent cooking show with Snooki specifically for YouTube is totally going to resonate,” said Day.

Meanwhile, Nickelodeon is creating The JoJo and BowBow Show Show, a YouTube animated short featuring the YouTube star (and Lip Sync Battle Shorties host) and her dog.

Henry Danger star Jace Norman and his brother Xander travel through Europe in the YouTube series Nick Trip. Viacom is partnering with the sibling’s production company for internet creators, Creator’s Edge.

And Nickelodeon is spotlighting esports with Super League Gaming Minecraft City Champs (YouTube), which features Minecraft players competing in a national tournament.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.