Viacom’s Brands Will Join Pluto TV on May 1, Company Unveils New Digital Studios Lineup

Monthly digital impressions have doubled since last year, to 3 billion

Viacom is creating half a dozen digital spinoffs featuring correspondents from The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Comedy Central
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Viacom used its second NewFronts appearance to lock in its content plans for Pluto TV, the free, ad-supported streaming service the company bought last month that will be the cornerstone of its streaming strategy.

On Wednesday, the company will add around 15 curated channels—featuring programming from flagship brands like BET, Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central—to Pluto’s existing lineup of 113 live linear channels.

In addition to its Pluto plans, Viacom announced a new slate of originals for Viacom Digital Studios ahead of the company’s NewFronts event today at New York’s PlayStation Theater.

Because Viacom Digital Studios was so new when it made its NewFronts debut last year, its 2018 presentation “was a lot of, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’” Viacom Digital Studios president Kelly Day told Adweek. This year’s event, however, is “more solutions-driven.”

That’s because the company now has data to back up its claims. Since Viacom Digital Studios was created a year and a half ago, Viacom brands have seen year-over-year domestic increases in social video views and watch time by 83% and 119%, respectively, with a global average of 4 billion views and more 6 billion minutes watched each month.

"Last year, we were generating about 1.5 billion impressions a month on our digital platforms. This year, we’re up to 3 billion impressions a month."
-Kelly Day, president, Viacom Digital Studios

“Last year, we were generating about 1.5 billion impressions a month on our digital platforms. This year, we’re up to 3 billion impressions a month,” doubling its digital video offering reach, said Day. “Next year, we are planning on having that grow to 5 billion impressions a month.”

During the NewFronts events, Sean Moran, head of ad solutions for Viacom, will continue his pitch from the annual upfront Presidents Dinners with agencies that he presided over earlier this month. “When you put together our linear offerings, our OTT offerings and Pluto, we’re able to reach over 50% of all 18-34s in the country,” said Moran, adding that Viacom’s reach extends to 80% when adding in its social capabilities via the Viacom Digital Studios and influencer marketing company WhoSay.

That dominance among the advertiser-coveted 18-34 demo is led by new acquisition Pluto TV, which will triple Viacom’s premium, full episode addressable video supply next year. “This is much bigger than people realized when we did it,” CEO Bob Bakish told Adweek in a cover story about Pluto TV earlier this month. “We think it’s a real game changer, not only for our company, but for the industry.”

Viacom, which first detailed its Pluto content strategy for Adweek in that cover story, said it will roll out its new Pluto channels on May 1. The offerings will fall into three categories: co-branded flagship channels, which will be curated versions of Viacom’s networks (BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Spike, the latter of which retired as a linear channel last year to make way for the Paramount Network); signature channels, featuring more specific genre programming from each brand (including CMT Westerns, Comedy Central Stand-Up, MTV Dating, MTV Teen, Paramount Movie Channel and Spike Outdoors); and pop-up channels, featuring marathons airings of shows to binge (starting with The Hills, ahead of MTV’s revival The Hills: New Beginnings, which debuts June 24).

Bakish told Adweek that Viacom’s cable networks “will continue to be the exclusive domain of our freshest products,” and that anything streaming on Pluto will be at least 18 months old, adding: “The freshest SpongeBob will continue to be in pay TV, but we will be using our catalog of great IP to bring in cord-nevers.”

In addition to its Pluto TV plans, Viacom unveiled its new Viacom Digital Studios content slate at the NewFronts event, which includes digital extension of several linear franchises on Facebook Watch, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter.

Among the highlights:

  • Multichannel network AwesomenessTV, which Viacom bought last year, will feature social media influencers Eva Gutowski and Brent Rivera in a pair of new projects: How to Survive: A Break-Up, a scripted romantic comedy series starring Gutowski, and Brent Rivera’s Dream Vacation. Both shows will air this summer on its YouTube channel.
  • BET will roll out Black Coffee—a daily morning talk show featuring Marc Lamont Hill, which will focuses on Black Twitter’s liveliest conversations—later this year on YouTube, Facebook Watch and Twitter. And Snap original De’Arra & Ken’s Prank Show, coming later this year, features YouTube stars De’Arra and Ken as they team up with couples who want to prank their significant other.
  • Comedy Central will feature a new digital series from David Spade, who will be starring in a new 11:30 late-night show later this year, and will be publishing content on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Building on the success of Between the Scenes, its digital series with The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, it is “doing half a dozen digital spinoffs with the correspondents of The Daily Show,” said Day, which will air on YouTube, Facebook Watch, Twitter and Instagram. There’s also Second Chances With Jason Nash (airing on YouTube this summer), in which the 40-something comedian tries various life experiences he avoided when he was younger.
  • MTV will launch a dedicated Wild ‘N Out Twitch channel this summer, where show personalities will play video games alongside fans. MTV No Filter: Tana Turns 21, on YouTube this summer, offers a behind the scenes look at YouTube star Tana Mongeau and her friends. And Facebook Watch series Drag My Dad, airing this summer, is a a makeover show (hosted by Bob the Drag Queen) in which fathers turn themselves into divas to bond with their kids.
  • Nickelodeon is celebrating the 20th anniversary of SpongeBob SquarePants with SpongeBob Smarty Pants Game Show, a digital game show on YouTube and Facebook in which two SpongeBob superfans face off to win The Golden Pineapple by answering trivia and competing in SpongeBob-themed games. Internet sensation Jayden Bartels faces off against other dancers in Jayden’s Dance Throwdown, on YouTube, while digital star Anthony Padilla chats with famous former Nick stars in Throw Back with Nickelodeon, a Facebook Watch show debuting this summer.

Viacom Digital Studios also shared more details about VidCon’s 10th anniversary flagship event, which will be held July 10-13 in Anaheim, Calif. The world’s largest conference for YouTube and other online video content producers will boast a lineup of creators including Annie LeBlanc, Simmi Singh, Rhett and Link, Tessa Violet and The Bramfam.

"[Live events] are a tremendous opportunity for our fans to not only interact with some of the talent from our shows, but also a great opportunity for fans to connect with each other."
-Day

Viacom is partnering with the IAB at VidCon for The Direct Brand Summit, which will explore how direct brands are using the power of online video to build relationships with consumers.

Between VidCon, Comedy Central’s ClusterFest, Nickelodeon’s SlimFest and MTV’s SnowGlobe live events, “these are a tremendous opportunity for our fans to not only interact with some of the talent from our shows, but also a great opportunity for fans to connect with each other,” said Day. “They also become this massive social buzz moment, where you’ve got people snapping their photos, tweeting stuff and posting on Instagram, and it becomes this wave of conversation. We’re going to show all the ways that brands can participate in these live experiences, as well as the social buzz that comes around that.”

Day is highlighting the massive social footprint of Viacom’s award shows like Kids Choice Awards (on Nickelodeon) and Video Music Awards (on MTV). “We want to give brands an opportunity to partner with us in really being part of that conversation,” she said.

Viacom and Twitter will be partnering around the Video Music Awards, enabling fans to “directly impact the show via Twitter,” said Day. “They’ll be able to voice who they want to see through Twitter, and we’re going to be respond to that in real time in the show.”


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