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Viacom Launching 14 Free Channels on Pluto TV, Sets Broad Digital Originals Slate

For Viacom, the future of television has an increasingly online sheen.

The media conglomerate is bringing a slew of content from its flagship cable networks to Viacom-owned Pluto TV — launching 14 channels on the free, ad-supported internet-streaming platform starting May 1 — and outlined its newest slate of original digital programming.

As its traditional linear TV business faces declines in viewers and revenue, Viacom has stepped up digital investments over the last two years, including paying $340 million for Pluto TV earlier this year. It launched Viacom Digital Studios in late 2017 and last year grew U.S. social video views and watch time 83% and 119%, respectively. All told, Viacom content garners a global average of 4 billion online video views and over 6 billion minutes watched per month.

“Our remarkable growth continues to be driven by an investment in premium original programming and experiences that engage our young, diverse audiences on the platforms they love most, presenting an unprecedented opportunity for our advertising partners to join the conversation,” Kelly Day (pictured above), president of Viacom Digital Studios, said in a statement.

Viacom is showcasing the new initiatives Monday afternoon at its second Digital Content NewFronts presentation, being held at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square.

Starting Wednesday, May 1, Pluto TV in the U.S. will add channels for BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon featuring content from Viacom’s programming library. The channels will include co-branded channels, which are curated versions of Viacom’s networks; “Signature Channels,” with a selection of top content from each brand; and Pop-Up Channels with marathon-style, binge-able lineups, starting with past seasons of MTV’s “The Hills” and spinoff “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” (ahead of the June 24 premiere of revival series “The Hills: New Beginnings”).

With the addition of Pluto TV, Viacom’s digital video impressions will grow to 5 billion impressions monthly by 2020, according to the company. Pluto TV says it has more than 15 million monthly active users, mostly in the U.S. “This is a major step forward in our mission of entertaining the planet,” said Pluto TV CEO and co-founder Tom Ryan.

Pluto TV organizes content into TV-like grids of scheduled streaming programming. Pluto TV’s new Viacom channels will include dedicated channels for library programming from BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nick, Nick Jr., and Spike (a new outlet for the brand, which is no longer on cable TV); the Signature Channels — CMT Westerns, Comedy Central Stand-Up, MTV Dating, MTV Guy Code, MTV Teen, Paramount Movie Channel, and Spike Outdoors; along with the Pop-Up Channel for MTV’s “The Hills.”

In addition, Viacom Digital Studios on Monday unveiled plans to produce new and returning original series around major tentpole events, linear franchises and digital shows from Awesomeness, BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon.

The slate includes:

  • AwesomenessTV romantic comedy “How to Survive: A Break-Up,” starring top YouTuber Eva Gutowski, set for summer debut;
  • “Brent Rivera’s Dream Vacation,” featuring the AwesomenessTV star going on bucket-list destinations with his friends, coming to YouTube this summer;
  • David Spade’s new untitled late-night show on Comedy Central (debuting this summer weekdays at 11:30 p.m. ET), will launch channels and release content across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Comedy Central destinations;
  • An overall deal with Gus Johnson to create monthly original videos for Comedy Central’s YouTube channel, in addition to more episodes of his “Low Budget” series. He will also star in a number of Comedy Central’s existing digital series, including “That’s an App” and “As Seen on CC”;
  • BET’s “Black Coffee,” a daily morning talk show hosted by Marc Lamont Hill featuring celeb interviews and a catch-up on Black Twitter’s liveliest conversations;
  • “MTV No Filter: Tana Turns 21,” following Instagram celebrity Tana Mongeau and her crew in a behind-the-scenes look navigating vlog life, partying and the occasional controversy, premiering this summer;
  • Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob Smarty Pants Game Show,” a digital game show where two SpongeBob superfans compete to win the Golden Pineapple by answering trivia questions, completing stunts and competing in SpongeBob-themed games, on Facebook and the SpongeBob YouTube channel;
  • Nick greenlit “JoJo and BowBow Show Show” Season 2, coming to YouTube later in 2019, with new animated adventures featuring JoJo Siwa, her pooch Bow Bow, and their furry friends; and
  • “Throw Back with Nickelodeon,” hosted by digital star Anthony Padilla (co-creator of Smosh) waxing nostalgic with Nick stars from the past, slated to hit Facebook Watch this summer.

Meanwhile, Awesomeness’ teen thriller “Light as a Feather” Season 2 will premiere on Hulu July 26, and Viacom announced that MTV’s “Wild ‘N Out” will launch a Twitch live-streaming channel this summer that will feature the show’s personalities playing video games.

For Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah,” VDS has invested in expanding its digital presence with six new series in development for distribution on YouTube, Facebook Watch, Twitter, Instagram, and Comedy Central’s destinations, Day said.

Also at the NewFronts, Viacom is calling out its upcoming VidCon 2019 confab, set to run July 10-13 in Anaheim, Calif. In partnership with the IAB, VidCon is adding the Direct Brand Summit, an industry-track programming block focused on how direct brands are using online video.

This year’s VidCon — the 10th anniversary of the video convention — will feature a lineup of creators including Annie LeBlanc, Simmi Singh, Rhett and Link, Tessa Violet, and The Bramfam. In addition, VidCon is working with Group Nine Media’s The Dodo for “The Dodo Pet Zone,” a Community Track with sessions featuring internet-famous pets (and their handlers) like Manny the Frenchie, Nala Cat, Walter Geoffrey the Frenchie, Venus the Two Face Cat and Norbert the Dog.

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