Sunday, April 26, 2020

How ViacomCBS Is Connecting to Fans During the Coronavirus Crisis

Via the ViacomCBS Newsroom:


‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ goes on-demand early and ‘The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah’ moves from digital to linear.

The coronavirus has caused a radical shift in how—and how much—content is consumed around the globe. With millions of people forgoing typical social activities, there’s been an increased demand for options that can offer on-demand information and entertainment. Behind the camera, news crews are working amid unprecedented conditions to deliver constant updates, and late night shows known for slick in-studio productions are now finding creative ways to give fans daily boosts.

With this in mind, ViacomCBS brands have taken new approaches to support their fans during the global pandemic. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah has been doing segments from the host’s couch while Stephen Colbert delivered his monologue from the bathtub. Amidst the shuttering of movie theaters, Paramount Pictures announced that it will digitally release Sonic The Hedgehog on March 31, just 45 days since its theater launch.

ViacomCBS also partnered with the Ad Council and the U.S. government on a PSA campaign that encourages social distancing. Starting last week, the #AloneTogether campaign aired on linear television spots and via paid social media. Talent from across the brand portfolio, including Trevor Noah and David Spade, as well as accounts from shows like Siesta Key and Lip Sync Battle, participated in the campaign.

Here’s a look at how the brands at ViacomCBS are finding creative ways to keep audiences entertained and informed:


Bellator fighter Cris Cyborg is offering daily quarantine workouts on YouTube as gyms and studios around the world are closed in order to lessen the spread of COVID-19. The daily workouts—which launched in partnership with the ViacomCBS #AloneTogether campaign—will be live on Cyborg’s channel beginning at 10 a.m. PST every Monday through Friday and they will be saved for users to watch at any time.

CBS All Access

On March 23, CBS All Access announced it would offer 30-day free trials to new customers, just ahead of the finale of Star Trek: Picard.

The streamer enlisted the help of Jean-Luc Picard himself, Sir Patrick Stewart, to deliver the news.

“That is the heart of Star Trek, how to become more human,” Stewart says in the clip. The month-long trial is redeemable until April 23 by using the code “GIFT” when signing up.

CBS News

The CBS News division has continued to deliver round-the-clock coverage on-air and online despite several staffers testing positive for the virus. In the last weeks, a smaller than normal staff has produced CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes. Affiliates from Boston and San Francisco are helping CBSN, the streaming network, with additional space and resources. CBS News Radio moved its technical base from New York to Washington. And, the local CBS news channel in New York has led with anchors from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

CBS This Morning moved its studio location several times last week, relocating temporarily to the the DC studio of CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell since its normal West 57th Street studio had to close. Last Thursday it broadcast from the Ed Sullivan theater, the usual home of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “I couldn’t even promise [the anchors] teleprompters at first,” producer Diana Miller told Variety. “They’re so flexible. It’s so clear that they want to be on the air. They’re incredibly resilient, positive and curious. They are the face of the operation and they are good at keeping us all calm.”

CBS Television Studios

The Late Show With Stephen Colbert stopped filming with a live audience on March 12 and in the days following, the show shut down in-studio production, but ramped up production remotely.

The Late Show recorded new monologues March 16-18 from Colbert’s home, which were edited into scheduled repeats of The Late Show. They aired on online and on CBS. Of note were the locations he chose: on March 16, Colbert delivered his monologue from his bathtub; on the 17th, he sat beside a fire in his backyard; and on Wednesday, March 18, he greeted viewers from his front porch.

The Late Late Show With James Corden will air a primetime special on March 30 at 10 p.m. EST on CBS in the wake of COVID-19.

Corden will host the show, titled Homefest: James Corden’s Late Late Show Special from his garage and feature special guests via webcam, like Will Ferrel and David Blaine. There will also be special music performances from BTS, Billie Eilish with Finneas, Dua Lipa, Andrea Bocelli, John Legend, and more.

CBS Sports

To give basketball fans their March Madness fix, CBS Sports will air entire classic March Madness games over the next few weeks.

Comedy Central

Since The Daily Show stopped filming last week, host Trevor Noah has been filming digital segments and monologues from his couch and guests have appeared via video chat. The digital version of the late night talk show, labeled The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah, which began streaming via online and social channels on March 18 will air on linear beginning Monday, March 23. The online episodes were an immediate hit—earning recognition for the production value and amassing more than 3 million viewers on YouTube within the first day of release.

Noah’s also created educational messages related to the coronavirus for the ViacomCBS’ #AloneTogether PSA campaign, as well as for the Mayor’s Office of NYC. On The Daily Show YouTube page, viewers can donate to No Kid Hungry via a simple button. The show’s fundraising feature has already helped raise more than $140,000 toward the organization.

David Spade, who hosts the late night show Lights Out With David Spade, for the network has been recording jokes and monologues from his Los Angeles home, which he’s nicknamed “the bunker.” Spade is recording the videos himself and then passing them along to Comedy Central to post on YouTube and Twitter, but he’s uploaded the videos to Instagram on his own.


To encourage music lovers to practice self-quarantine, MTV brought back its classic show Unplugged. The first installment featured an at-home unplugged performance from Wyclef Jean. The series is available to stream on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. Additional artists will be announced soon.


Nickelodeon launched its summer schedule a few months early. The scheduled programming is designed for school-age children. The network is also airing two new animated shows on a daily basis: The Casagrandes, a spin-off of its popular show The Loud House, and It’s Pony, a British cartoon. Audiences have also been able to watch marathons of shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, PAW Patrol, and Henry Danger.

To help inform parents and children about the pandemic, the network has launched a special website called, which features informational short-form content about COVID-19 for children and downloadable activities. Children can receive hand washing tips from the Bubble Guppies or learn about social distancing from SpongeBob.

The Nick Jr. preschool streaming service, Noggin, also launched on Apple TV in 25 territories, including the U.S., the UK, Germany, and France. New customers receive a free 7-day trial through the app.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures announced last Friday that the family-friendly flick Sonic The Hedgehog, based on the Sega video game character, would be available on-demand on March 31.

As well, the studio’s film The Love Birds will be released to Netflix since its theatrical and SXSW premieres had to be cancelled.


On March 20, Showtime announced it will offer a free 30-day trial to new customers. Users who sign up before May 3 will have access to the premium network’s hits like Billions, Shameless, The Chi, and Ray Donovan.

Simon & Schuster

As many schools have announced weeks-long closures, Simon & Schuster issued a temporary policy whereby teachers and booksellers can read its children’s books aloud to classes and customers over streaming platforms.

The publisher has also given authors information about making the most of their social media accounts during coronavirus and pledged to double its annual contribution to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, which helps booksellers in need.

Smithsonian Channel

In light of global travel bans, Smithsonian Channel is helping viewers all 50 states without leaving home by streaming Aerial America on Smithsonian Channel AVOD and YouTube.

To give people a breather from their new day-to-day, the network is also offering bi-weekly yoga class from Julie Montagu on Facebook Live at 2 p.m. EST on Mondays and Fridays. The brand also has a #CutenessBreak Twitter thread featuring its vast library of cute animal content on one mega-thread, as well as new weekly #MondayMotivation Twitter campaign, in which fans can get a personalized, hand-drawn illustration of a motivation or mantra to add to their vision board.

As part of the #AloneTogether campaign, the network is also participating in Facebook Watch parties every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. EST, featuring a back-to-back watch party of two Aerial America episodes together that engage fans with state-by-state trivia.

More from the ViacomCBS Newsroom:


“Reaching young people is such an important part of this. We know how strong their voices are.”

Millennials and Gen Z for the most part have been raised on the internet with information readily available at their fingertips. Now, with the coronavirus crisis unfolding around the world, they’re scrolling through their feeds looking for brands who are making a social impact, not serving them ads for sandals or sunglasses.

Young people ages 13-24 care about brands that care—85% agree “brands or companies who participate in social issues earn my respect” and 85% say “it’s important for brands and companies to play a bigger role in social issues today,” according to ViacomCBS Global Consumer Insights’ 2020 “Youth Decoded” study. With that information, brands are beginning to market less to consumers at this difficult time and prioritize creating resources and providing sources of entertainment.

“We see unique campaigns that have been very quickly pulled together to address the concerns and the needs of young consumers, and some brands are doing that in really creative ways. With young consumers stuck at home, obviously, there’s a desire for connection,” says MaryLeigh Bliss, VP of content for YPulse, a youth market research company. Bliss noted campaigns like Chipotle’s digital lunch parties labeled “Chipotle Together,” or how Netflix is carrying films that won’t be released in theaters due to government shutdowns of movie theaters, like Paramount Pictures’ The Lovebirds, which was originally slated for a theatrical release on April 2.

“There’s a lot of content being provided, as well as campaigns, that are really aimed at connecting young consumers when they’re feeling very isolated,” she added.

ViacomCBS is working around production hiatuses with unique digital content and linear marathons. The company also launched a PSA titled #AloneTogether in partnership with the Ad Council, which is airing across linear and digital and features messages from company talent like Trevor Noah and Pauly D. Nickelodeon launched its own version centered on children, titled #KidsTogether, which features content from its characters teaching kids how to socially distance and wash their hands properly.

“In these moments of uncertainty, we truly get to see the power of our brands, platforms, and reach in keeping our communities informed, entertained, and connected,” said Crystal Barnes, SVP of corporate social responsibility and environmental, social, and governance strategy and reporting at ViacomCBS. “Reaching young people is such an important part of this. We know how strong their voices are. And as we try to stop the spread of COVID-19, our social and talent-led public service campaign, #AloneTogether, is just one of the ways we’re engaging them.”

Marketing During Crisis

“People don’t want to be marketed to. That’s not a generational thing,” says 20-year-old Madison Bregman, founder of GirlZ, a Gen Z marketing company which serves clients like the NFL, Chipotle, Big Lots, and Taco Bell.

“Now is a great time for brands to be sort of trying stuff and putting out content because a lot of us are spending more time than ever watching Netflix and watching YouTube,” she says. “If you can put out a great story, then your brand will be okay.”

Bregman said that there’s a lot of information circulating right now and for brands, it’s important to be forthright with information, but not overbearing. The problem, she adds, is that there is so much news and it’s constant. Lighthearted content and entertainment that will keep people occupied is what many people are after right now, she says.

Bliss learned from ongoing research that young consumers continually look to brands for comfort, mainly through content. “They intentionally use content to treat their moods, their feelings. And this has really, as a crisis, has amplified that behavior for sure,” she says.

For Ziad Ahmed, a fellow member of Gen Z who runs his own Gen Z marketing business, JUV Consulting, it goes back to the idea that brands should take a stance. He says young people want to see brands acting like humans rather than corporations. About 56% of those 18 and up said they are pleased to hear about brands taking actions like donating goods and services, according to research by the 4As on March 18 and 40% they want to hear what brands are doing in response to COVID-19.

“People want to see brands just doing the right thing, like companies offering free internet and free video conferencing, and companies implementing full paid sick leave if they haven’t already,” he says.

Focusing on Mental Health

According to Bliss, preliminary YPulse research has shown an enormous shift in young people’s attitude toward mental health in the wake of COVID-19. Two weeks ago, 33% of those ages 13-39 felt anxious about the coronavirus crisis—and one week later, the percentage had jumped to 51%. Overall, 93% of young people surveyed said they were impacted in some way by COVID-19.

These unprecedented responses have led brands to respond by placing a focus on mental health resources and support. Social media channels like Snapchat. Twitter, and Instagram have implemented tools, information, and support to navigate the situation. Social media mental well-being is important for young people especially, as it’s where they are finding most of their news and how they keep informed, according to Bliss.

For MTV News, which reaches an audience made up of millennials and Gen Z, the organization was sure to create content and address concerns surrounding mental health that was now amplified in the wake of the crisis.

“We have a lot of stories coming up in which young people are telling us how they’re feeling about their mental health, how they’re trying to be proactive in this moment. MTV News is distilling all the resources together in one place to help them figure out what the best tools are for them so that they can navigate this new normal together,” says Ella Cerón, director of social impact for MTV News.

Ahmed, who left his junior year at Yale to return to his parents’ home in New Jersey, says many college students aren’t privileged enough to be in a situation like his and this is an incredibly stressful time for them.

“This is an unprecedented moment in terms of our economy, our healthcare, our mental health, our academics. The infrastructure that young people have been accustomed to in terms of going to school every day, seeing our friends, planning for the next thing is gone. We don’t know if we can plan for anything. We don’t know what tomorrow looks like.,” Ahmed said. “For many of us, this is a very confusing and fraught moment in our lives.”


ViacomCBS’s #AloneTogether campaign is helping slow the spread of COVID-19 by educating people around the world about social distancing, while entertaining them, too.

Internally the company is connecting employees with one another by gathering videos about how they're all doing during this unprecedented time.

THEY WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Visit for more information!

A message from Robert M. Bakish, CEO, ViacomCBS:

When Life Brings Us Challenges, Adapt Creatively

As the COVID-19 outbreak escalated into a global crisis, the entire ViacomCBS team all over the world has come together in amazing ways to ensure we keep providing the news and entertainment we know consumers are craving during this difficult time. Over the past several weeks, we’ve continued to support those impacted by COVID-19 through our global relief efforts, public awareness campaigns, and dedicated programming, as well as flexed what we call our “adaptive creativity.” This agile approach to creating and delivering content has allowed us to continue serving consumers, partners, and our communities in this uniquely challenging environment.

Last week, thousands of employees tuned in to a virtual town hall to hear leaders from across the company share how their teams, which are being asked to do their jobs differently than they’ve ever done before, are bringing the idea of adaptive creativity to life.

We heard from Diana Miller, Executive Producer of CBS This Morning, who spoke to the resiliency of the CBS News team in continuing to deliver important COVID-19 coverage under extremely fluid conditions. She and the team have created entirely new workflows to stay on the air, as broadcast locations have changed, interviews are now being done remotely via video conferencing platforms, and editors are cutting their pieces at home and submitting them through the cloud.

All throughout, anchors like Gayle King, Anthony Mason, and Tony Dokoupil have maintained their on-air presence, even while hosting from home. And, rather than disrupting the show’s chemistry, the new format has strengthened their connection to viewers, many of whom are going through the same isolation.

We also heard from Chris Licht, Showrunner and Executive Producer of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which has been producing and airing shows on CBS uninterrupted. After the shutdown of its studio, the team moved quickly to a full work-from-home model and has been leveraging new tools that drive collaboration between their creative and production teams, including an online platform for scriptwriting in real-time and a virtual infrastructure for centralizing and sharing content.

Adaptive creativity “runs in the DNA of The Late Show,” as Chris pointed out, which puts out topical (and hilarious) material that’s often dictated by the unpredictable news cycle. The same can be said about The Daily Show (TDS), which also had to halt in-studio production and convert to a fully remote work setup. But in less than a month, the team pioneered a digital variant – The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah – that was an instant hit on YouTube. So much so that we decided to move it to TDS’ regular timeslot on Comedy Central, while continuing to make it available on social – and it’s drawing large audiences.

Internationally, too, our teams are creating great content from around the world. MTV International just premiered MTV Games Live With Charlotte Crosby, an interactive game show series that streams on the brand’s social channels, and that is remotely produced by ViacomCBS Digital Studios International using cloud-based platforms Grabyo and Zoom. MTV also launched MTV Unplugged from Home, a digital reinvention of the iconic music program featuring artists performing – you guessed it – at home, as we encourage fans to practice social distancing.

But we’re not just adapting in the way we make and distribute our content. Equally important, ViacomCBS brands are evolving in how they connect with communities during this difficult time.

Another of our panelists, Jenny Wall, Chief Marketing Officer for Nickelodeon, highlighted the work that Nick is doing through its #KidsTogether initiative. The campaign features original, multiplatform educational content from SpongeBob SquarePants, Blue’s Clues & You, and other franchises, as well as resources for parents and caregivers. And, via Noggin, our pre-school edutainment service, we’ve reached out to over five million at-risk families to help them with homeschooling, and we are currently offering it free to all new subscribers for 60 days to keep kids engaged and active.

The brand also quickly created and aired #KidsTogether: A Nickelodeon Two Hall, which was produced remotely in just a week – a testament to the ingenuity, incredible teamwork, and creative spirit that is synonymous with the Nick brand.

BET is also playing a key role, leading outreach to urban communities of color where the disease has hit the hardest. Jeanine Liburd, Chief Social Impact and Communications Officer for BET Networks, overviewed a series of high-impact initiatives, including the creation of a COVID-19 relief fund in partnership with the United Way to support black Americans in our cities. On 4/22, BET will air a primetime special Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort, co-hosted by Kelly Rowland, Terrence J, and Regina Hall, driving viewers to needed resources. And again, the entire production was done remotely – a herculean feat for talent, crews, and the many others responsible for bringing this to air.

Both the Nickelodeon and BET campaigns ladder up to our broader ViacomCBS relief efforts to deploy our media assets through PSAs to aid in COVID-19 awareness. That includes #AloneTogether from ViacomCBS and the Ad Council, which has generated over 31,000 linear spots aired globally and more than 450 million video views on social.

We are all feeling the very real impacts of this virus, and glancing at the headlines, it sometimes feels that optimism is in short supply. But I find bright spots every day in the resiliency of the people who make up ViacomCBS, in their ability to adapt with creativity, to stay focused, and to embrace new ways of working. I see firsthand how committed, connected, and collaborative they are in continuing to move our business forward and supporting our audiences and communities.

We are rising to the challenges before us, and that brings me a lot of hope for the future.


Official ViacomCBS press release via CSR News:

With #AloneTogether, the Media Industry Unites to Drive Awareness

The campaign, created by ViacomCBS in partnership with the Ad Council, educates audiences on the importance of social distancing and drives unity through entertainment.

Even in isolation, we’re not alone. That’s the message that’s at the core of the #AloneTogether campaign, which calls on audiences around the world to stay at home amid the coronavirus crisis.

Created by the ViacomCBS Entertainment and Youth brands and distributed widely via a partnership with the Ad Council, the goal of #AloneTogether is to educate audiences about the importance of social distancing and to promote a sense of unity through entertainment during a time of self-isolation. The campaign is purposefully brand and media agnostic, enabling it to scale quickly through additional media partners who can tailor the message to their audiences and platforms.

“The COVID-19 virus has impacted our lives in every possible way. There is no doubt that we are in uncharted territory, and with that comes so many unknowns. But it’s important that we focus on what we do know and how we can help,” says Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council. “The #AloneTogether work is a needed rallying cry—one that shows how we can unite as one, even when we feel most alone. The message has already been embraced by media partners and influencers across the country, proving once again that we are a powerful force when we work together.”

The campaign kicked off on March 16, with a social-led effort by ViacomCBS’ Entertainment and Youth brands (which include MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel, Pop TV, CMT, VH1, TV Land, and Logo).

Since then, other companies and partners have used the campaign toolkit to customize and share the #AloneTogether message. iHeartMedia is airing audio versions of the PSA, Clear Channel Outdoor plans to extend the campaign across its out-of-home media, Snapchat is featuring #AloneTogether creative throughout its platform and developing two custom filters, and Twitter developed a custom emoji users can share.

Influencers and celebrities have also found creative ways to drive awareness. YouTube star Peter Hollens created an acapella parody, Love is Blind’s Giannina Milady Gabelli offered her support on Instagram, and child actor Ocean Maturo posted a light-hearted spoof of the Full House opening credits called “The Quaran-Teens.” ViacomCBS talent, including Trevor Noah, Pauly D, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Stephen Colbert, and Debi Mazar (who tested positive for COVID-19) also lent their digital voices.

“We initiated this campaign to ensure that people around the world understand the importance of staying at home for the safety and health of everyone, as well as to support our fans at this moment,” says Jacqueline Parkes, CMO & EVP, Digital Studios for ViacomCBS’ Entertainment & Youth Brands. “For ViacomCBS’ Entertainment and Youth brands specifically, we wanted to ensure that young people understand the important role they can play in stopping the spread of this virus.”

ViacomCBS’ #AloneTogether Amplification

For ViacomCBS, the social amplification of #AloneTogether is part of an ongoing conversation with fans. Each brand within the portfolio has adapted the campaign with their talent and for their audiences. MTV created #MTVUnpluggedAtHome, a series of acoustic performances that kicked off with Wyclef Jean; Comedy Central launched My Beautiful Bunker, a series featuring comedian Hanna Dickinson; VH1 posted a TikTok of Bobby Lytes of Love & Hip Hop Miami washing his hands; the cast of Pop TV’s One Day at a Time posted a selfie compilation video on Facebook; TV Land’s Younger created a supercut establishing Diana Trout as “The OG Social Distancer”; and Paramount Network promoted a St. Patrick’s Day marathon of Bar Rescue on YouTube.

During the first week of the campaign, ViacomCBS’ Entertainment and Youth brands—as well as supporting efforts from CBS, BET, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Pluto TV, and Awesomeness—created more than 500 social posts, leading to over 3 million engagements, 43 million video views, and 127 million impressions. ViacomCBS brands will continue to create original social content to amplify the campaign’s mission. This content will include live takeovers and messages from talent, as well as profiles of young people who are helping create positive change during the pandemic.

The campaign has also extended to air across ViacomCBS’ linear networks around the world. Each brand again tailored the messages to their audiences. MTV made custom linear spots featuring talent including DJ Khaled, Justina Valentine, and Pauly D, Paramount Network plugged a stay-at-home movies night, and Comedy Central even developed original linear programming with The Daily Show with Trevor Noah spin-off, The Daily Social Distancing Show, which launched on digital before moving to linear.

#AloneTogether PSAs are airing English and Spanish across the U.S., with 14 local language versions airing in 50 countries across Western, Eastern, and Central Europe, the UK, the Middle East, and Africa, as well as all of Latin America and parts of Southeast Asia. It also appears across CBS Interactive’s digital platforms and on Pluto TV in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe.

During the first three days of the linear campaign, the #AloneTogeth PSAs aired more than 750 times in the U.S., including on CBS during primetime. They were also inserted into consumer streams on Pluto TV, the company’s ad-supported streaming platform, more than 600,000 times.

In a complement to #AloneTogether, other brands within the ViacomCBS portfolio kicked off efforts specific to their audiences. CBS launched #InThisTogether, a campaign featuring personal videos from CBS Entertainment, All Access, News, and Sports stars comforting fans with messages that focus on social distancing, community, and the power of entertainment.

Nickelodeon created #KidsTogether as a spinoff of the #AloneTogether campaign. Delivered in 14 languages for kids and families around the world, the pro-social initiative features Nick IP and talent—like Spongebob Squarepants, Bubble Guppies, and The Casagrandes —providing tips on staying healthy and suggesting activities to do while they’re at home.

Across its portfolio, ViacomCBS reaches every demographic in the U.S., with the largest share of linear viewing and a social media following of 825 million.

“The key to this campaign is to engage audiences across all ages and demographics, which is something ViacomCBS has unique experience in given our portfolio of brands,” says Josh Line, chief brand officer for ViacomCBS. “We know how to talk to diverse audiences with a tailored approach across platforms, and we’re lucky to be in a position to leverage that expertise in a way that can hopefully help to keep people safe and healthy.”

With reporting assistance from Kelby Clark


More Nick: Nickelodeon Launches #KidsTogether--A Global Prosocial Initiative to Help Kids and Families Stay Informed and Engaged With Activities; Noggin to be Offered Free to Kids in Need in Partnership with National Head Start Association and First Book

Originally published: Wednesday, March 25, 2020.
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