Aug 08, 2019

The two brands led Viacom Digital Studios to new highs this year.

Earlier this summer, Comedy Central released the 22nd episode of its digital series Mini-Mocks. The short focused on Gilroy Cunnings, who runs Brooklyn Ball Barber, a salon that caters to the below-the-belt grooming needs of men. “A lot of guys who come through these doors just want their rug to match their mug,” quips Gilroy.

With 240 million views across all social platforms, “Brooklyn Ball Barber” is the most-watched digital video produced by Viacom this year.

Of course, the manscaping barbershop is fictional, created purely for parody. The video’s viral success, however, is an indication of the very serious growth of Viacom Digital Studios (VDS), an umbrella unit with Viacom tasked with spurring the digital video presence of flagship brands like BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr.

As of Q3 2019, VDS Video views grew 17% year-over-year, to 5.9B, and watch time increased by 85%, with 9.6B minutes viewed. In addition to Comedy Central’s “Ball Barber,” BET’s I Went Viral featuring Soulja Boy notched nearly 3 million views and the first episode of MTV’s Drag My Dad Facebook series earned more than 5 million views. Awesomeness also released a new show Trinkets on Netflix and BET premiered its talk show Black Coffee across social channels.

"The way we look at content isn't about whether we put it on cable or digital. It's not either-or. It's all about more and it's reaching fans where they are."

Jacqueline Parkes

CMO, MTV, VH1, CMT + Logo and EVP of Viacom Digital Studios

“The investment that Viacom has made in premium original programming for social video platforms has been extremely effective,” says Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios. “By developing innovative series and partnering with great digital talent with deep audience connections, we’re seeing our viewership and engagement grow exponentially across every major platform.”

VDS gave Viacom brands access to more resources, enabling them to hire in-house digital creators. As well, aggressive digital goals encouraged them to work collaboratively. This is a departure from the linear TV programming process, where brands work independently to focus on the distinct tastes of their core audiences. 

“We don’t think about content in terms of cable or digital,” Jacqueline Parkes, chief marketing officer for MTV, VH1, CMT + Logo and EVP of Viacom Digital Studios. “It's not either-or. It's all about more and it's reaching fans where they are. So we've gone from a cable-centric mentality to a consumer-centric mentality.”

Attracting Young Fans at MTV

MTV has the highest social following of any TV entertainment network, with nearly 80M fans across social platforms, according to VDS research. Year-over-year, the brand’s average video watch-time increased 131% and social views are up 18%—making 2019 its best year ever for social views.

MTV’s online video strategy prioritizes the expansion of familiar franchises, which Parkes describes as a “digital and linear juggernaut for all of Viacom.” For instance, Wild ‘N Out, the improv and sketch comedy series that debuted on MTV in 2005, is the network’s most-watched YouTube channel with more than 5.2 million subscribers. The network created spinoff series for the channel like Basic To Bougie, which feature Wild ‘N Out stars. More spinoffs are in the works.


The brand has also tapped into influencers and social stars. It recently launched No Filter: Tana Turns 21 featuring YouTuber Tana Mongeau, who has 4.8 million subscribers. The digital series is MTV’s top-performing digital original to-date, averaging 3.2 million views on YouTube.

“We've accumulated a young and very rabid Tana fanbase to the MTV brand channel on YouTube. It's delivering for Tana, it's delivering for MTV, and most importantly, it's delivering for the fans,” Parkes says.

Viewers under the age of 25 are drawn to short-form video content on Instagram and YouTube because they view the platforms as creator communities, where they can feel more connected to influencers, according to research by Viacom’s Global Consumer Insights team. Based on the success of Tana Turns 21, Parkes says it plans to feature additional social celebrities on the show.

Parkes says there are “hundreds” of digital originals in the works set to roll-out soon. “We need to make sure we're delivering what the consumer is looking for on each platform while staying true to our brand,” she says. “We focus on finding the formula that makes sense for us, for our fans, and brings in young audiences.”

Leaning Into Laughs At Comedy Central

The creation of VDS got employees excited for making new and unique digital videos, says Jen Danielson, SVP of digital for Comedy Central, Paramount and TV Land. Plus, she notes, they can immediately see when videos are resonating. Successful videos become seminal, enabling the teams to strategically build on bits and create consistency. The brand’s digital views are up 42% since this time last year.

“A lot of thought goes into making our videos great,” she says. “We’re leaning into successes—once you find what works, you keep doing it.”


Mini-Mocks now averages 5 million views per episode. The latest episode of the series, “Jellyfish Sting Pee Paramedic” with influencer Gus Johnson, earned 7.8 million views across platforms in the first two weeks and is a result of Comedy Central’s newest endeavor, Under the Influencer.  Under the Influencer, a strategic and creative priority for the brand, invites comedic influencers for a week of collaborative content making with the brands’ internal digital team. Looking forward, the focus is on expanding the slate of digital originals has more than 20 series, including Sex Fails, Your Worst Fears Confirmed, and The Foley Artistwhich mainly live on YouTube.

The brand also plans to continue to expand familiar franchises digitally, as it has with The Daily Show’s Between The Scenes series and Hack Into Broad City, and program-specific channels on YouTube, including Comedy Central Stand-Up, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Key & Peele.

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