Viacom’s message to Madison Avenue at its first Digital Content NewFronts song and dance: It is, finally, strategically positioned to deliver concentrated internet audiences at scale.
To be sure, the core of Viacom’s business remains locked in traditional TV and film. But with the coming-out party for the recently created Viacom Digital Studios, the conglomerate’s story is that it has a boatload of digital-first programming, partnerships and talent deals — designed to extend existing brands MTV, Comedy Central, Nick and BET more broadly online across YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat as well as create new programming franchises.
“The launch of Viacom Digital Studios is an amazing opportunity to reimagine our iconic brands for a new generation of young, mobile-first audiences,” said Kelly Day (pictured above), the former AwesomenessTV exec who was tapped as president of Viacom Digital Studios last fall.
In addition to Viacom Digital Studios’ plans for hundreds of hours of original digital-native content, the company announced that VidCon — the video-creator conference to acquired earlier this year — will launch its first confab in London, set to run Feb. 14-17, 2019, at the ExCeL Center in East London. Viacom also revealed plans for “Road to VidCon,” a YouTube series produced with MTV following one young YouTuber’s path that will run leading up to the flagship conference in Anaheim from June 20-23.
The new content slate includes: “The Majah Hype Show,” a sketch-comedy show about trending topics from Majah Hype for BET; “You Up? With Nikki Glaser,” a live daily morning show for Facebook Watch from Comedy Central; “Cooking in the Crib with Snooki,” hosted by the notorious party girl from MTV’s “Jersey Shore” on YouTube; and “The JoJo & BowBow Show Show,” a series of animated shorts from Nickelodeon starring “Dance Moms” alum JoJo Siwa and her furry best friend BowBow.
Viacom highlighted its recently renewed partnership with Snap to develop and produce new Snapchat Shows. It also touted Comedy Central’s new initiative to create a daily cadence of social programming, The Creators Program, featuring a crew of five up-and-coming comedy writers-performers, as previously reported by Variety.
It also announced a bigger relationship with Twitter, detailed plans to introduce three new show formats: “BET Breaks,” a rundown-style pop-culture show delivering an African-American perspective on topics setting Twitter abuzz; daily “MTV News” reports on what’s trending in American youth culture; and “MTV News International,” curated by MTV News editors and presenters with a global perspective.
Here’s the rundown of new and returning content, as well as talent deals and content partnerships, announced at Viacom’s NewFronts event:
- “You Up? With Nikki Glaser”: Weekly Facebook Watch show highlighting celebrity news, spun off from the comedian’s daily morning show on SiriusXM’s Comedy Central Radio, co-hosted by Glaser and Tom Thakkar. Guests are set to include Ricky Gervais, Bill Hader, Amy Schumer, and Tracy Morgan.
- “Meet Your First Black Girlfriend”: Series on YouTube and Facebook with Akilah Hughes, known for her YouTube channel “It’s Akilah, Obviously,” with her take on dating outside of her race.
- “Between-the-Scenes”: Continuation of short-form series features Trevor Noah of “The Daily Show” interacting directly with fans about political, pop-culture, and personal topics, running across Facebook Watch, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.
- “Hack Into Broad City”: Online companion show to “Broad City” eavesdrops on the video-chat sessions between creators, showrunners and stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson and keeps viewers engaged between seasons. New episodes will debut later this year, ahead of the TV show’s fifth and final season set for 2019.
- Comedy Central’s Creators Program: The digital initiative, envisioned as anchoring the network’s online voice and brand, is led by Nate Dern (formerly with Funny Or Die and Upright Citizens Brigade). The team of creators (Ryan Beck, Chris Cotton, Hanna Dickinson, Jordan Mendoza and Natasha Vaynblat) will write and be featured in a daily pop-culture-themed talk show (title TBD) and the weekly “Comedy Central Central” scripted workplace comedy… about working at Comedy Central.
- “Teen Code”: The YouTube series, patterned on MTV’s “Girl Code,” will feature influencers and teens discussing real-life issues.
- “Fab or Fad”: Original YouTube series covering beauty, fitness and lifestyle trends, with the two hosts passing judgment on what’s actually fabulous and what’s just a passing fad.
- “Yo! MTV Whips”: YouTube show with Nick Cannon (“Wild ‘N Out”) getting a taste of hip-hop’s most insane autos.
- “MTV Decoded”: Weekly series set for Facebook and YouTube hosted by Franchesca Ramsey, who tackles pop culture, race and other uncomfortable topics with humorous and thought-provoking commentary.
- “Wild Styles”: A YouTube show extension to “Wild ‘N Out” with freestyle comedy battles featuring more rhymes, more fire and more burns.
- “Remaking the Video”: YouTube series in which digital influencers and traditional talent recreate classic music videos.
- Snapchat Shows for “Girl Code,” “Promposal” and “Cribs”: Previously announced trio of made-for-Snapchat shows.
- “Cooking in the Crib with Snooki”: A YouTube show extension of the “Cribs” franchise in which Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of “Jersey Shore” fame brings a whole new flavor to the kitchen.
- “The Majah Hype Show”: (YouTube): Weekly sketch comedy show hosted by comedian-actor Majah Hype, featuring a rotating ensemble cast of fellow comedians.
- Deal with YouTube’s De’arra and Ken: YouTube creator couple with over 4.5 million subscribers on the platform have signed an overall talent deal with BET to perform in and create original shows for BET Digital.
- “Freestyle Friday”: Revival of the popular “Freestyle Friday” segment from BET’s hit show “106 & Park” for YouTube and Facebook. Once a month, leading up to BET’s 2018 Hip Hop Awards in October, emcees will be invited to an open-mic session streamed live online.
- “Rate the Bars”: Returning music series to run on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter featuring established emcees rating lyrics from other artists with “unfiltered honesty.”
- Partnership with Beautycon: BET has pacted with Beautycon to co-create more than 50 beauty tutorials focused on an African-American audience featuring an array of digital-influencer talent.
- “The JoJo & BowBow Show Show”: YouTube animated shows (3-5 minutes each) will follow JoJo Siwa and her beloved dog BowBow in stories that reveal how BowBow is way more than just a furry BFF. The character art leverages the existing art style from JoJo’s stickers on Apple’s iMessage. Six episodes are being produced at Nickelodeon’s Entertainment Lab in the network’s Burbank, Calif., headquarters.
- “SlimeZone VR Showdown”: New YouTube series where you can watch the players go into Nick’s SlimeZone virtual-reality game to compete and, of course, get virtually slimed.
- “Nick Trip”: YouTube show follows Jace Norman, star of “Henry Danger,” as he travels throughout Europe with his brother Xander. He’s tour England, Germany and France to see the biggest attractions, meet fans, and hang out with his Nick friends, Kira Kosarin and Jack Griffo, stars of “The Thundermans.”
- Partnership with Creator Edge Media: Hub for internet creators founded by Jace Norman (Nick’s “Henry Danger”) and Xander Norman, under which Nick plans to collaborate on new digital shows with the brothers and their influencer friends.
- Super League Gaming’s Minecraft City Champs: New esports series on YouTube following Minecraft players as they team up to represent their city in Super League Gaming’s national tournament.