×

Viacom Launches Spark Internal Summit With Eye on Corporate Culture

Viacom will roll out an ambitious internal corporate initiative dubbed Spark that aims to engage and energize the company’s 10,000 employees with an expansive slate of conference-style programming.

Viacom president-CEO Bob Bakish calls Spark “a multi-market next generation town hall.” The sessions kick off Tuesday with a 50-minute Q&A with Bakish and Viacom vice chair Shari Redstone that will be live streamed across the company from Viacom’s New York headquarters. The sessions will run Tuesday through Thursday originating from New York and Los Angeles. Other events will be held for Viacom employees in more than 40 markets around the world through the end of March.

“It call came down to the idea that we didn’t want to do a traditional global town hall,” Bakish told Variety. “We wanted to do something more interactive and engaging, something that would give people more information that can help them do their jobs better.”

The lineup includes a mix of panel sessions featuring Viacom leaders and Viacom-affiliated talent to sessions with experts, thinkers and boldface names ranging from filmmaker Spike Lee to Martha Stewart to former Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth. Some sessions will be available for employees to attend in person in New York and L.A. Most will be live streamed internally and archived for future use.

The Spark summit lineup also includes a mix of themed activations, demonstrations and installations on cutting-edge technology and creative tools such as VR.

There will be workshops and brainstorming sessions but the primary focus is to encourage employees to think creatively and pursue innovative ideas at all levels of Viacom’s various operations. At present Viacom has about 10,000 full-time employees, about 8,000 of which are based in the U.S.

The Spark program was first launched in 2016 when Bakish was heading Viacom’s international division. He spearheaded the roving conference idea as a means of helping to bring employees in far-flung markets together. The feedback was so strong from the international attendees that Bakish decided to expand Spark to a company-wide event. Julia Phelps, Viacom’s exec VP of communications, culture and marketing, led the charge setting the agenda and speakers, as she did during her previous tenure as a top lieutenant to Bakish in the international division.

Bakish hopes the investment in the Spark program will pay dividends by improving morale and encouraging creative thinking. He recognized that Viacom’s downbeat corporate culture was a problem for the company when he took the reins as CEO in December 2016.

“It was clear to me that our culture like the business itself was in need of a turnaround and an evolution,” Bakish said. “At Viacom the culture had always been a real point of pride and a competitive advantage for us. We needed to bring that spirit of creativity back. We needed to evolve the culture.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven

    Department of Justice Backs Led Zeppelin in ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Copyright Case

    The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the next big music copyright case on the horizon following the Katy Perry “Dark Horse” decision, and taken Led Zeppelin’s side in the long-running copyright dispute that pits the writers of the group’s anthem “Stairway to Heaven” against the publishers of the earlier song “Taurus” by [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein

    Harvey Weinstein Prosecutors Make Last-Minute Move to Bolster Case

    The Manhattan D.A.’s office is making a last-minute bid to strengthen its case against Harvey Weinstein, who is set to be tried next month on charges of rape and sexual assault. Prosecutors notified the court on Tuesday that they will seek a new indictment. The D.A.’s office wants jurors to hear from Annabella Sciorra, the [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein's Autopsy Rules That He Died by Suicide

    Jeffrey Epstein’s death earlier this month has been ruled a suicide by hanging. The New York Times reported on Friday that the city’s medical examiner has officially made the ruling six days after Epstein was found dead in his jail cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. According to the Times, which cites a [...]

  • America Ferrera Eva Longoria

    America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and More Sign Letter to Latinx Community: 'We Will Not Be Broken'

    America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and more have signed a letter published in several media outlets on Friday standing in solidarity with the Latinx community. In response to the heightened tension surrounding President Trump’s immigration agenda, the El Paso shooting that targeted Latinx people and the ICE raids in Mississippi, the letter addresses the language used [...]

  • Research Firm Screen Engine/ASI Acquires TicktBox

    Screen Engine/ASI Acquires TicktBox, an Entertainment Marketing and Ticketing Startup

    Screen Engine/ASI, a market research firm that specializes in focus-group testing of movies and TV pilots, has acquired ticktBox, which operates a digital marketing and ticketing platform used by movie distributors, exhibitors, and TV networks. Terms of the deal, which closed Aug. 9, weren’t disclosed. With ticktBox, SE/ASI will have one of the largest databases of [...]

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST

    Eric Reid, Jemele Hill – and Colin Kaepernick? - Take Jay-Z to Task Over NFL Partnership

    When news of the presumably lucrative entertainment and social-justice deal between Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and the NFL leaked on Tuesday, initially there was a surprising lack of public reaction or outcry. But after a press conference where Jay and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced the deal at Roc Nation’s New York offices yesterday — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content