This new strategy, which Viacom dubs the “studio model,” marks an attempt to take advantage of streaming services and mobile carriers to capture audiences that can’t be found on pay TV. Viacom’s six flagship networks — MTV, Comedy Central, BET among them — will begin identifying characters or shows that could be reinterpreted for new audiences.
MTV, under the banner of MTV Studios, has begun to pick through its 35-year archives of youth-centric content (The Real World, Aeon Flux, Made) to re-imagine its shows for non-Viacom platforms. In addition to tapping its library, MTV will produce new shows, starting with The Valley, about a group of friends growing up in the Mexican border town of Nogales, TX.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish talked about the initiative during the company’s second quarter earnings call.
“We’re already mining our libraries of IP to create long-form episodic content that might not fit our linear brands today but could work for others,” Bakish told investors. “For example, there is a lot of interest from SVOD partners in licensing library properties from MTV and Nickelodeon IP for brand-new interpretation.”
The strategy is a risky one for Viacom, because these digital platforms compete for viewers with its cable TV networks. But media company needs to identify new ways to make money at a time when advertising revenue and fees from pay TV operators have stagnated.
A CBS-led rescue doesn’t appear to be in the immediate future. Efforts by Viacom’s controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone, to merge the media company with its broadcast sibling have become mired in a court battle. CBS sued Redstone in an attempt to minimize her control over the company and kill the merger.
Viacom has been branching out into third-party content production for some time. Paramount Television, a production arm of the Paramount Pictures film studio, quietly built a $400 million-a-year business from scratch on the strength of such content as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why and USA Network’s Shooter.
The international arm, Viacom International Studios, brought together its wholly owned Argentinian broadcaster Telefe and majority-owned Brazilian comedy brand Porta dos Fundos with Viacom’s Miami-based production operations to create global content.
“Building on the success of Paramount Television and Telefe’s quickly growing production business, we’re going to much more aggressively tap into the huge demand for content and unlock more of our IP,” Bakish said on the recent earnings call.
Pinky Malinky follows the title character, a hotdog living in a human world, who — along with his two best friends — made his first appearance on Nickelodeon in 2016. At the time, the character had an active social-media presence. The show uses the tropes of a mockumentary and reality show format, with Pinky and his friends will talk directly to the camera and the audience to share their silly take on real life.
Netflix confirmed the animated comedy would come to Netflix later this summer.