Idiot Box: Viacom Goes Digital

Viacom Goes Digital

Devin D. O'Leary
4 min read
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Over the last decade, the lines between movies, television and the internet have become difficult to delineate. People—particularly those in the younger generations—absorb their media content from an increasingly diverse collection of sources. TV stations used to measure the success of a show based simply on how many people watched it when it aired. Then the rise of the DVR gave birth to the +3 and +7 ratings (calculating how many people watched a show up to three days or seven days after it aired). Today—since people are watching shows on everything from computers to tablets to phones—networks are forced to weigh Hulu ratings, iTunes downloads, YouTube Red subscribers and more.

Now, power players like Viacom—the ninth largest broadcasting, cable and media company in the world—are jumping into the online world with both feet. Viacom came out big late last month with the company’s first-ever “Digital Content NewFront.” Viacom Digital Studios used the event to detail its plans to deliver hundreds of hours of “premium, original content” utilizing “Viacom stars and digital-native talent from BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon across the leading social and online video platforms.”

Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios, said the launch announcement was “an amazing opportunity to reimagine our iconic brands for a new generation of young, mobile-first audiences.” … As a member of the once-hot Generation X (they made us drink Crystal Pepsi, for god’s sake!), all I can say is: Welcome to the crosshairs of a new target demographic, millennials.

So what does all this “digital” talk translate to? It means a lot more crossover: traditional TV shows migrating online, and internet-only sensations heading to the TV airwaves. At Comedy Central, for example, we’ll see things like “Meet Your First Black Girlfriend” (an observational comedy series from comedienne Akilah Hughes that will air on YouTube and Facebook) and “Between-the-Scenes” (an ongoing short-form series, featuring Trevor Noah interacting directly with the audience, that distros on Facebook Watch, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter).

BET will break out of the broadcast-only mold, sending weekly sketch comedy series “The Majah Hype Show” to YouTube. The network also signed a deal with De’arra and Ken, a “social influencer” couple with over 4.5 million YouTube subscribers. The couple will “perform in and create original shows for BET Digital and bring their magnetic brand of fun to a mobile screen near you.” The network is also planning to revive the popular “Freestyle Friday” segment from “106 & Park” as a once-a-month, live YouTube stream. On top of that, the network is teaming with to co-create over 50 beauty tutorials focused on an African American audience for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Iconic channel MTV brings back comedy series “Girl Code” and reality show “Cribs” as short-form content on Snapchat. “Cooking in the Crib with Snooki” sends the “Jersey Shore” star and her kitchen over to YouTube, while “Yo! MTV Whips” does the same for Nick Cannon and cars.

Nickelodeon, for its part, contributes “The JoJo and BowWow Show,” a string of 3-minute animated shorts starring Nick star JoJo Siwa and her furry bestie, to YouTube. That’s accompanied by “Nick Trip,” a travel show that sends “Henry Danger” star Jace Jorman and his brother on a trip through Europe.

Welcome to the future, viewers. Now pick up every device you own and start watching.
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