Bob Bakish, who came aboard as CEO of Viacom International Media Networks in January, used his afternoon keynote at MIPCOM today to tout the “glocal” production model: developing shows locally that are then formatted and resold around the world. American networks are becoming much more responsive to TV shows developed overseas and then imported, he said, giving as an example House of Anubis, a Dutch telenovela picked up by Nickelodeon for the U.S. Launches of non-U.S. shows on the big five American TV networks have quadrupled in five years; last year, 53 non-U.S. shows debuted on networks compared with 12 in 2005. Said Bakish: “It’s critical that we have product that reflects local tastes, but it’s also critical that we capitalize on economies of scale.”
Bakish called research into who watches Viacom’s international shows “an inspiration.” Research, he said, drives reinvention across all of Viacom’s TV business. The channels boss divided his audience into three types: “kids” aged up to 9, who use technology to bring the family together; “Millennials,” between 10-30, who treat their parents more like mentors and life coaches than rule-makers and authority figures; and young adults, who see humor as one of the most important ways to define themselves. That explains Viacom’s ongoing push into comedy: VIMN is launching five new comedy channels in the coming year on three continents including India.
VIMN currently has over 160 TV channels in the same number of countries and territories, reaching 650 million households. “Today’s environment requires that we’re hard-wired and ready for change,” Bakish said. “Some call it evolution, some call it revolution, to us it’s about constantly reinventing — or risk facing irrelevancy.”
It’s easy to get carried away in the overheated bubble when the TV world descends on Cannes, but Bakish’s keynote did contain a few choice phrases — “social media is the telephone, but we’re the conversation” being a particular favorite.