Brian Robbins, who founded AwesomenessTV, has been hired to oversee a new venture called Paramount Players devoted entirely to producing films derived from the Viacom flagship brands, including Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and BET. The deal is the first major one to be done under new Paramount Pictures’ chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos and is line with Viacom’s overall strategy to cross-promote brands and getting divisions working more closely together.
Under the Paramount Players umbrella, Robbins and his team will develop, produce and market features based on properties already owned by Viacom. Robbins, who is president of the new division, will report to Gianopulos. He will officially join the company later this month and will work closely with the leaders of each of Viacom’s flagship brands to focus on talent and properties to be developed by Paramount Players.
Paramount Pictures then will bring these to market, both building campaigns and then distributing what will be co-branded films. It will also emphasis digital and social media campaigns.
Robbins, who was a well-known manager and co-founder of Tollin/Robbins before founding Awesomeness drove all creative at Awesomeness and produced Expelled, Guidance, Foursome, t@gged, Freakish and the recent theatrical release Before I Fall.
Robbins was one of the first to tap into what is known as GenZ — the 12 to 24 year olds — and realize that the target demo was basically being ignored with content. So he decided to (as he said recently at the Milken conference) to “super-serve them.” How? He courted teen social media stars and made them stars in original content. From that, they built a brand.
In two to three years, his company went from a YouTube channel to a company that is worth almost a billion dollars. That’s the kind of thinking that studio needs as it struggles to find its footing again.
Both Viacom president and CEO Bob Bakish and Viacom board of directors Vice Chair Shari Redstone want the same strategy: To integrate their pictures division better into the Viacom brand. Mine the properties they have at other brands and create new content for multiple platforms.
That integration was seen this year at CinemaCon when the film people started talking about Viacom and all their great properties. And while it is actually a prudent strategy, the audience of exhibitors in Las Vegas there to see Paramount product thought the presentation itself was misguided — that the corporate speak and showcasing TV brands to a arena full of those who show films was just inappropriate.
While at Tollin/Robbins Productions and the Founder and President of Varsity Pictures, Robbins really concentrated on the teen and YA demographic. He produced the CW series Smallville and One Tree Hill; Disney Channel’s Sonny With a Chance and So Random; Nickelodeon’s All That and Kenan and Kel; and Spike TV’s Blue Mountain State.
Robbins also was the producing force behind the popular WB series What I Like About You and HBO’s Arli$$. Robbins also directed and/or produced Disney’s feature films Wild Hogs and Shaggy Dog, Paramount’s Coach Carter, Hardball and Varsity Blues and DreamWorks’ Norbit and A Thousand Words; and Sony’s Radio.