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Viacom Upping Paramount Brand

1 Mar, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish

Spike to be renamed The Paramount Network in 2018

With Paramount Pictures no longer for sale, new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish says the venerable studio will play bigger role as the media company focuses resources on select flagship brands domestically and abroad.

Speaking March 1 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab in San Francisco, Bakish, who replaced ousted CEO Philippe Dauman following the latter’s power struggle with Viacom scion Sumner Redstone and his daughter Shari Redstone, aims to focus corporate resources on Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Paramount.

Each brand, Bakish said, will receive “a true multiplatform global distribution base," which he said includes having “a piece” of the Paramount film slate through cross-promotions, consumer products, branding and original content.

“Historically, Paramount was run as an island. It did its own thing. Didn’t benefit to any significant extent by our [TV] network portfolio, the brands and the consumer connections they had,” he said.

That will change as the CEO imposes a global-centric strategy aimed at understanding the importance of scale and “a first-rate management team” willing to make the required changes. Bakish said he expects to name a replacement for Paramount CEO Brad Grey, who exited the studio last month after 12 years, in the "near term." 

The CEO also faulted attempts at TV Land, CMT and Spike "to dabble" in scripted programming despite their respective lack of critical mass.

“Scripted programming can be a very powerful audience mechanism as well as revenue-generating mechanism. However, to have it work, you need a certain critical mass. And none of those three networks, based on resources allocated to them, have critical mass,” he said.

Contending leadership and resource issues undermined previous management, Bakish aims to restore growth by leveraging the flagship brands. Thus, next year Spike will be rebranded The Paramount Network.

“Paramount is a fantastic brand. It’s not totally a consumer brand, particularly in the U.S.,” Bakish said, adding that when the studio was marketed abroad as a pay-TV channel featuring library content and scripted programming, it became the largest film channel in less than four years.

“We saw that [indicative of Paramount being] a very strong brand,” he said. “Unlock the benefits of scale. I think people are understanding of the direction we are going and excited by it.”

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