Speaking about the video series, Paras Sharma, senior vice president and general manager for South East Asia at Viacom, tells The Drum about its creation as part of Facebook’s publisher and creator video incubation program for Facebook Watch. The series range will from pro-social, to reality, to music entertainment, and will feature popular social influencers in Asia from November 2019 and into 2020.
“We are a leader in the traditional content industry but as we evolve our business and expand to include digital platforms, we recognized the need for a specialized, dedicated unit that is hyper-focused on growing our business in this area,” explains Sharma.
“So a few years ago, we set up Viacom Digital Studios International (VDSI), the international arm of our digital studio production business. Teams were established across multiple markets internationally, focusing on creating short-form and mid-form digital content. Content produced features the core brands and unique storytelling, leveraging our production capabilities, and driven by research and analytics.”
He adds: “VIMN’s commitment to content spans across genres, formats, and platforms and is driven by extensive consumer research to understand what our fans want, new undiscovered trends and more. These insights help us shape our content strategy that includes short-form, mid-form and long-form. We are continuously evaluating what works and what doesn’t, and recalibrating to find the winning formula for each market.”
Having announced the intention to merge with CBS in August to create a combined media company called ViacomCBS that is worth $28bn, Viacom will have no shortage of streaming assets that includes Showtime OTT, CBS All Access (which combined to earn eight million by the end of 2018) and Pluto, which announced it had 15 million users in April.
That also includes original content from Nickelodeon, MTV, CW, VH1 and Comedy Central. Choosing to work with Facebook Watch will ensure Viacom’s original content continues, said Sharma.
“We aim to increase our reach and engagement with fans on various new platforms. MTV’s original, creative and unique storytelling make it a perfect fit for Facebook Watch,” he explained.
“With this partnership, we are able to extend MTV’s programming and creative concepts on a highly interactive and social platform, while our fans and Facebook users have the opportunity to discover fresh programming in a new format.”
Sharma claimed Viacom has seen encouraging results with its short-form video approach, saying that in just two years, the total digital viewership ranking of Viacom’s digital assets has improved from 22nd to sixth globally.
He explained this has been made possible by VDSI’s unique approach, which Viacom continues to build upon every month. For example, in Asia, within the last year, Viacom’s digital short-form content for MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon generated 185 million views per month.
“So, we remain optimistic and confident that with the strength of our brands, the direction of VDSI, and an ear to the ground, we will continue to scale our digital video strategy and plans,” he added.
For a start, the series will not be ad-funded as Sharma says the intention is to create shows that Viacom thinks will be “cool or crazy or meaningful or fun, or a bit of everything”. In addition, Viacom wants audiences to find and connect with the content, which he said both MTV and Facebook believe in.
However, he is not ruling out ads in the shows as these videos, noting that series have the same monetization opportunities that other videos on the platform have.
“Beyond the Facebook Watch project, we have created branded and sponsored short-form and mid-form content. Examples include travel and tourism content for the tourism ministries in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia; for fashion brands such as Vans, or in e-sports with HP; and Comedy Central content that features lyf by Ascott,” explains Sharma.
“The content has different forms of sponsor and brand integration, or messaging opportunities, and we work with advertisers to create customized digital solutions that are relevant and appealing to their target audiences.”
He adds that besides original content like the Facebook series, Viacom also creates branded content that resides on its social channels for its followers and opportunity is through advertising on its social and digital channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
In Europe, Facebook has partnered with a handful of European digital publishers including LadBible and Copa90 to fuel the expansion of Watch.