Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Viacom Digital Studios Readies Facebook Watch Slate, Including Three New Shows for Nickelodeon

Betting on the social network's 2.7-billion user base, Viacom Digital Studios has lined up three new shows from its Nickelodeon kids unit.

Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) is adding to its Facebook Watch slate with big-ticket collaborations between its flagship brands such as Nickelodeon, Awesomeness and Comedy Central with veteran digital influencers like Grace Helbig (pictured above), MatPat, and Joey Graceffa!


With many young viewers among the growing number of cord-nevers and cord-cutters, the company is betting that it can strengthen brand loyalty and build online communities by working with Facebook and other digital and social partners. That’s the formula for keeping Viacom’s “youth” brands relevant to a generation of digital natives.

VDS unveiled the first slate for Facebook Watch at its NewFronts presentation this spring, including Nickelodeon’s Throw Back With Nickelodeon and MTV’s Drag My Dad. The shows are created in via Facebook’s creator incubation program — which acts as a matchmaker of sorts between new media publishers and digital creators — and also mark Viacom’s bid to reimagine its longstanding brands for a new generation of digital-native viewers.


For Nickelodeon, VDS is readying three Nickelodeon series for Facebook Watch. Fact or Nicktion an investigative weekly series where host MatPat (real name: Matthew Patrick; 12 million subscribers) explores the weird mysteries behind classic Nickelodeon shows and theorizes answers that just might ruin your childhood; while in Make My Nick Dreams Come True, Joey Graceffa (9.4 million subscribers) will help participants run the iconic Double Dare obstacle course, get slimed, and realize other Nick-centric fantasies. In Very Bad Crafts, two contestants will battle it out on a crafting project using some of the most unconventional and useless items and materials, to be judged by an as-yet-unnamed DIY influencer.

Fact Or Nicktion will premiere on Monday, September 9, 2019, while the release dates for Make My Nick Dreams Come True and Very Bad Crafts are still forthcoming.


For Comedy Central, VDS is readying two series. In Beast To Beauty, host Grace Helbig (2.8 million subscribers) will help New York’s ugliest pets refine their wardrobes, grooming, diet, and decor. And in Pitch Please, hosted by Instagram star Adam Waheed (1.6 million followers), wannabe entrepreneurs will present their breakthrough business ideas for ridiculous concepts. Beast To Beauty will bow on Saturday, September 21, 2019 while Pitch Please will premiere on Monday, September 30, 2019.

Finally, for Awesomeness, comedy vlogger Rickey Thompson (1.2 million subscribers) will headline Tri Me, in which he will settle real-life disputes between roommates along with crowdsourced help from viewers. A release date for Tri Me has not been announced.

The move comes shortly after Viacom Digital Studios boosted its kids division with two new hires. Former Fullscreen Media exec Ashley Kaplan is now the SVP of Digital Studios for Nickelodeon and Luke Wahl is the VP for Digital Studios joined in July.

The additional content on Facebook comes despite the fact that the social site requires its users to be at least 13. While younger children do use the platform, contravening Facebook’s own user policies, in the broader context of child safety, under-age usage of social media platforms is causing issues still rippling into the industry as YouTube was just hit with a US$170 million settlement with the FTC for allegedly claiming it wasn’t allowing kids on the platform, while actively courting kids content makers and advertisers.

The new series, as described by VDS:

From Nickelodeon:

Fact or Nicktion: an investigative weekly series where our MatPat explores the weird mysteries behind classic Nickelodeon shows and theorizes answers that just might ruin your childhood. Hosted by MatPat. Premieres Sept. 10

Make My Nick Dreams Come True: was one of your 6th grade #goals to run the Double Dare obstacle course? To get slimed? Get ready to make your Nick dream come true. Hosted by Joey Graceffa. Premiere date to be announced.

Very Bad Crafts: Armed with some of the most unconventional and useless items imaginable for crafting, our contestants are presented with a challenge to create themed target objects out of the items they have been presented. Judged and hosted by a quirky DIY influencer, our contestants do their absolute best to create magic out of the materials they are given. Part challenge show, part masterclass in the absurd, Very Bad Crafts is like Nailed It but with crafts, where contestants will be challenged to channel their inner Michelangelo. Premiere date to be announced.

From Comedy Central:

Beast to Beauty: a fabulous lifestyle duo helps New York’s ugliest pets refine their wardrobes, grooming, diet, cultural pursuits, and home décor. Hosted by Grace Helbig. Premieres Sept. 21.

Pitch Please: ambitious wannabe entrepreneurs present their breakthrough business ideas for extremely ridiculous concepts, that you wish were real. Hosted by Adam Waheed. Premieres Sept. 30.

From Awesomeness:

Tri Me: Rickey Thompson settles real-life disputes between roommates, coworkers, friends, and significant others with help from the Facebook audience. Hosted by Rickey Thompson. Premiere to be announced.

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From Business Insider:

Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios, was named one of the power players leading the rise of free, ad-supported streaming video by Business Insider for 2019.

Day helped take Viacom's digital strategy out of the dark ages and developed its strategy for programming across platforms from Facebook Watch to TikTok.

She says the secret is finding the passionate fan bases that already exist in different corners of the internet, and having the freedom to experiment with how to reach those audiences.

She also described her approach to experimenting on the big social-video services.

Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios, left Awesomeness TV in 2017 to launch a new digital production arm within Viacom. She was charged with helping the the legacy-media brand's collection of TV companies, like MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, and Comedy Central, reconnect with audiences under age 25 that had lost touch with traditional TV.

By August, Day had grown Viacom into the sixth most-viewed media and entertainment property across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch, on Tubular Labs' social-video leaderboard, from 26th place two years earlier. Tubular tracked more than 2.9 billion video views across Viacom's YouTube channels in August, and 1.9 billion on Facebook, to give a sense of the scale.

Day, who was named one of the power players leading the rise of free, ad-supported streaming video by Business Insider for 2019, has built up Viacom's digital channels and programming across nearly every social-video platform from YouTube and Facebook Watch to Twitch and TikTok.

Under her watch, Viacom has revived MTV's "The Real World" on Facebook Watch, made a YouTube reality series about the influencer Tana Morganeu, brought "Wild 'n Out" to Twitch, released "Cribs" on Snapchat, extended Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" to most social platforms, and even introduced MTV and Comedy Central to TikTok.

Day says the secret is finding the passionate fan bases that already exist in different corners of the internet, and then having the freedom to experiment with how to reach those audiences.

"The volume of content that we're producing should allow for people to fail," Day said. "You sorta have to be okay with the occasional miss."

Day is programs for the "super passionate" fan bases that already exist on the internet

Day created a cornucopia of new digital channels for Viacom, based around franchises like "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" and "Wild 'N Out," where like-minded fanbases already existed on the internet.

"The platforms have really evolved in such a way that they are driving consumers deeper and deeper into —not necessarily niche content — but things that they're super passionate about," Day said.

Viacom Digital Studios leads the development on Viacom's digital productions but also has team leaders dedicated to working with each network. Together, they make sure the programming stays true to the properties.

"We organize the team in such a way that they were able to operate pretty independently and freely, but still had great access and relationships to the linear networks and all of the amazing IP and talent coming out of it," Day said, crediting CEO Bob Bakish with supporting that structure.

Day and her team created a series based on what happens at "The Daily Show" during commercial breaks. "Between the Scenes" is one of the few digital series that Viacom has found works well across social platforms, including YouTube, IGTV, and Facebook Watch, Day said.

Other properties, like "Wild 'N Out," have found audiences on platforms, like Twitch or Pluto TV.

"We've done a lot of experimentation," Day said. "We've gone into it with a sense of, we're going to figure some things out and a little bit of a freedom to take some risks around trying things."

Not everything has worked. Day said there have been quite a few shows failed. Some times, Day and her team will try to salvage the project by re-editing it or changing the titles and thumbnail images. Other times, they cut their losses.

"The great thing about the YouTube algorithm is, you know really fast — you know pretty much within 48 hours — whether a show is gonna work or not," Kelly said. "You can see it really fast and then you decide."

Here is how Day is thinking about each platform:

YouTube: Great for influencers and personalities. Rewards content longer content; around 10-15 minutes in length. Viacom Digital Studios has launched YouTube series starring influencers like Tana Mongeau on the MTV Channel and JoJo Siwa and her dog BowBow on the Nickelodeon channel.

Facebook Watch: Good places to reach viewers in their late 20s to 30s. Rewards content that's 3-5-minutes long. Also good for influencers and personalities. Day said she's looking to work with talent on Facebook in hopes of recreating the success she's had working with personalities on YouTube.

Snapchat: Best for shorter, talent-driven, behind-the-scenes stories. Geared toward 13- to 18-year-olds. MTV rebooted "Cribs" on Snapchat.

Twitter: Best for live and tentpole events. Viacom partnered with Twitter around the VMAs this year, and created a "Stan Cam," where users could vote on what celebrities to focus on during Twitter's live stream of the event.

Twitch: Large gaming audience; good for properties where there's overlap. Viacom launched a channel for "Wild 'N Out" on Twitch, with talent from the improv show.

TikTok: A work in progress. Viacom has found some early success its channel for MTV, which has more than 2 million followers on TikTok, but Day says it's too early to say what works best. "We are paying really close attention to it and we are working on gaining followers there," she said.

Most of this content is monetized by advertising. But Day has also brought in other revenue streams for Viacom Digital Studios, to make the division less susceptible to changes at each platform. The company also generates revenue from branded content, live events (Viacom acquired VidCon in 2018), and content licensing (it also acquired Awesomeness, which makes shows like "Pen15" for Hulu and "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" for Netflix).

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More Nick: Nickelodeon Embarks on New Direction with its Biggest, Most Wide-Ranging Content Slate Ever!

Originally published: Thursday, September 05, 2019.

Original source: Tubefilter; Additional sources: Kidscreen, Broadcasting & Cable.
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