When Viacom starts meeting with Madison Avenue this week to sell its coming slate of programs, it will have more to pitch than shows and schedules. The company will also be touting advertiser services.
Over the eighteen months, Viacom has acquired a suite of new media venues ranging from WhoSay, an influencer-marketing platform; VidCon, a conference for video creators; AwesomenessTV, the YouTube network; and PlutoTV, an ad-supported streaming-video hub. “All of this puts us in a place where we have the broadest reach of premium content hitting younger consumers,” says Sean Moran, head of advertising solutions at Viacom, in an interview. “That differentiates us.”
Viacom has in the past grappled with the dynamic affecting all traditional media companies: how to keep advertising levels the same as more consumers migrate to new-tech screens that aren’t always counted in traditional ratings. But now the company believes it has a group of new-media offerings that will let it bring advertisers “a reach that is over 50% of the people between 18 and 34 in this country,” says Moran.
Viacom is making its pitch to media buyers this week as TV’s annual “upfront” sales season looms. Each year, U.S. media companies use the the yearly session to try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the next programming cycle.
Viacom’s overall revenue for its fiscal year 2018 fell 2% to $12.94 billion from $13.26 billion in the year-earlier period. Advertising revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter was off 6% to nearly $1.15 billion.
To be certain, Viacom has lots of TV ad time to sell. The company will be touting a new late-night series starring David Spade and a new scripted half-hour led by comedian and rapper Awkwafina on Comedy Central. CMT has greenlit “Nashville Squares,” a game show featuring Nashville talent. MTV is reviving “The Hills.”
Viacom will be launching 10 to 15 different channels for Pluto devoted to various popular brands the company operates, says Moran. And because these will be known entities, the company will tout “brand safety in a TV-quality environment” that will help sponsors reach cord-cutters and other young people who do not maintain a traditional subscription to cable or satellite distributors. He expects the company to make available “library” content from sources such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central with which many consumers are already familiar.
“You can get it on your phone, but the majority of it is watched on the big glass,” says Moran.
The company is expanding its range of media assets as many big entertainment companies work to attract an emerging category of advertisers that have come to be known to consumers through digital means, but wish to tap into TV to gain better share of consideration. “We are doing business with clients we’ve never done business with before,” says Moran.