Wednesday, September 15, 2021

ViacomCBS Names Brian Robbins as New Head of Paramount Pictures; Exec to Remain President of Nickelodeon

ViacomCBS Announces Leadership Transition at Paramount Pictures

Brian Robbins

NEW YORK--September 13, 2021--ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIACA, VIAC) (“ViacomCBS”) today announced a leadership change at Paramount Pictures. Effective immediately, Jim Gianopulos, Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, will transition oversight of Paramount to Brian Robbins, who has been appointed President and CEO of the studio in addition to maintaining his current responsibilities leading Nickelodeon. Gianopulos will serve in an advisory role at Paramount through the end of the year to help ensure a smooth transition.

In addition, Paramount Television Studios (PTVS) will now become part of the premium network group under the leadership of David Nevins, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Showtime Networks, bringing together the divisions’ premium scripted content capabilities. Nicole Clemens will continue to lead PTVS in her capacity as President, PTVS, reporting directly to Nevins.

As part of this transition, and in line with ViacomCBS’s previously announced streaming content leadership structure, Robbins will assume oversight of films produced for Paramount+ as well as continue to be responsible for kids and family content globally for the streaming service. Nevins and Clemens will also continue to serve in their current Paramount+ roles of Chief Content Officer, Scripted Originals, and President of Original Scripted Series, respectively.

Jim Gianopulos

“Paramount is one of ViacomCBS’s crown jewels, delivering some of the most iconic moments in entertainment for more than a century. The moves we’re making today will build on Paramount’s strong momentum, ensuring it continues to engage audiences at scale while embracing viewers’ evolving tastes and habits,” said Bob Bakish, President and CEO of ViacomCBS. “A passionate storyteller who takes a holistic view of the entertainment ecosystem, Brian is an expert at building powerhouse global franchises by leaning into the unique strengths of new and established platforms – including theatrical releases, streaming, linear, consumer products and more. With Brian drawing on his extensive experiences across animation and live action, and David overseeing Paramount Television Studios, we will build on Paramount’s incredible legacy and chart a new path for the studio.”

Bakish continued, “Jim is a towering figure in Hollywood who has successfully led Paramount through an extraordinary period in the film industry. From the wild success of the A Quiet Place franchise to the Oscar-winning Rocketman to fan favorites like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mission: Impossible – Fallout, he has overseen the creation of films that have achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to Jim for his leadership in establishing a revitalized Paramount.”

David Nevins

Said Gianopulos, “I’ve been privileged to be part of this amazing world of film and television for almost 40 years, and at the heart, it was always driven by two principal things: the brilliant talent of storytellers, whose visionary expression excelled in every medium and whom I did my best to empower, and a fantastic team of colleagues who helped me make that happen. I’ve been honored to help guide the evolution and massive expansion of creative content, from the birth of video to global TV access, to the launch of iTunes, to ubiquitous internet availability, and now the streaming revolution. The opportunity to take the reins at Paramount and revitalize it, build first-class executive and creative teams, and restore it to both profitability and creative success has been a source of pride. Brian has a long and successful career, and having worked closely with him, I know he and the team at Paramount will have great accomplishments in the future. I wish them all the very best success.”

“Jim is nothing less than legendary in this business, and I am humbled and grateful to him for his years of mentorship and friendship during our time working together,” said Robbins. “I am excited about the future for Paramount Pictures, and I want to thank Bob Bakish for the opportunity to use this incredibly powerful and broad canvas to produce films for every audience and deliver them in the ways today’s consumers want to experience them.”

As President of Nickelodeon since October 2018, Robbins has overseen culture-defining content and franchises at the number-one entertainment brand for kids with a proven ability to successfully engage theatrical, streaming and linear TV audiences by understanding the power of each platform. Franchises such as PAW Patrol and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reach hundreds of millions of young people around the world through TV shows, movies and consumer products, while SpongeBob SquarePants has become one of the most popular animated characters of all time.

Under Robbins’ leadership, Nickelodeon has become a powerful driver of subscribers and engagement at Paramount+ since its launch in March 2021. Programming for young audiences, such as PAW Patrol: The Movie and the series and films in the SpongeBob SquarePants universe, account for a double-digit share of total streams, and the platform’s slate includes numerous highly anticipated releases from the likes of Nickelodeon’s Avatar Studios.

Prior to his appointment at Nickelodeon, Robbins served as President of Paramount Pictures’ Paramount Players division, where he worked closely with legacy-Viacom brands to identify talent and properties to be developed into co-branded feature films. Previously, Robbins co-founded the multiplatform media company Awesomeness in 2012 and served as its CEO. He also co-founded Tollins/Robbins Productions and was the Founder and President of Varsity Pictures.

Robbins has executive produced numerous television and movie hits, including Kenan & Kel and All That, the latter of which Robbins adapted into the Nickelodeon feature film Good Burger; directed the Paramount films Varsity Blues and Hardball; executive produced Blue Mountain State for Spike TV (now Paramount Network); and also produced the television series Smallville and One Tree Hill, among others.

Robbins is the recipient of a Directors Guild Award, a Peabody Award and the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Pioneer Prize. He is also an Emmy Award nominee.

Gianopulos’s distinguished career in the global entertainment industry spans nearly 40 years. Gianopulos took the reins of the studio in April 2017, revitalizing the studio and restoring profitability consistently throughout his tenure.

During his time at Paramount, Gianopulos has been responsible for creating and restoring massively successful franchises including A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II, with more films in the works; Sonic the Hedgehog, with a sequel slated for release next year; Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the most profitable and critically-acclaimed film in the franchise, with the seventh and eight installments in production; the highly-anticipated Top Gun: Maverick; and Bumblebee, which marked a reinvigorated Transformers brand, returning the franchise to both profitability and critical acclaim. Additionally, Gianopulos rebuilt the popular Tom Clancy franchise across both film and television and was responsible for the award-winning 2018 hit Elton John biopic Rocketman.

During his tenure, Gianopulos built a first-class team of film and television executives, including his hiring of former Twentieth Century Studios chief executive Emma Watts to oversee the motion picture group, as well as bringing on seasoned marketing leaders, including Marc Weinstock and Mary Daily, and re-establishing Paramount Animation under the leadership of Mireille Soria, among other key roles. On the television side, Gianopulos built Paramount Television Studios, with Clemens at the helm, increasing output to more than 20 shows consistently in production and on the air. High-profile projects in production include The Offer, about the making of The Godfather, for Paramount+ and American Gigolo for Showtime.

Prior to joining Paramount, Gianopulos served as the Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment from 2000 to September 2016. In this role, he was responsible for feature film production, marketing, and global distribution of film and television content in all media. During his time as Chairman and CEO of Fox, the studio had its most profitable years ever, and in 2014, Twentieth Century Fox broke the all-time industry global box-office record, earning more than $5.5 billion. Gianopulos also has the distinction of having championed two of the biggest film successes in history, Titanic and Avatar.

Gianopulos chairs the Board of the Motion Picture and Television Fund, serves as Treasurer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Board of Trustees, and is a member of the board of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a trustee of the American Film Institute.

About ViacomCBS

ViacomCBS (NASDAQ: VIAC; VIACA) is a leading global media and entertainment company that creates premium content and experiences for audiences worldwide. Driven by iconic consumer brands, its portfolio includes CBS, Showtime Networks, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount+, Pluto TV and Simon & Schuster, among others. The company delivers the largest share of the U.S. television audience and boasts one of the industry’s most important and extensive libraries of TV and film titles. In addition to offering innovative streaming services and digital video products, ViacomCBS provides powerful capabilities in production, distribution, and advertising solutions for partners on five continents. For more information about

ViacomCBS, please visit www.viacomcbs.com and follow @ViacomCBS on social platforms.

VIAC-IR

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Gianopulos sent a memo to staff Monday afternoon after the transition was announced, thanking them for their work over the past 4 years.

“When I joined the studio in 2017, Paramount was in a period of turmoil —in many ways it seemed to have lost some of its soul, or at least its pride,” Gianopulos wrote. “Together, we reinvigorated it, with a commitment to its heritage, by putting great entertainment on the big and small screens for audiences worldwide, and in the process, restoring it to profitability, and infusing it with dedication, hard work, and perhaps most importantly, heart. After many years in this business, it has been a true joy and privilege to be part of the evolution of this singular industry, and to work alongside all of you as it continues to evolve.”

Read his full memo to staff, below.

Dear Colleagues,

As you have heard, I will be stepping down as Chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures today. With this transition, I want to share some thoughts and especially my gratitude to you. Since my first day on the lot over four years ago, I have felt welcomed, supported, and embraced by all of you, and I have been utterly blown away by your optimism and hard work on our mission to rebuild this studio. Paramount is a storied institution, and we are the latest to be custodians of its great legacy. I have been immensely proud of the work we have done and what we have built together, and I’m grateful for all your contributions along the way.  

When I joined the studio in 2017, Paramount was in a period of turmoil —in many ways it seemed to have lost some of its soul, or at least its pride. Together, we reinvigorated it, with a commitment to its heritage, by putting great entertainment on the big and small screens for audiences worldwide, and in the process, restoring it to profitability, and infusing it with dedication, hard work, and perhaps most importantly, heart. After many years in this business, it has been a true joy and privilege to be part of the evolution of this singular industry, and to work alongside all of you as it continues to evolve.

As we make this transition to a new era for the studio, I encourage all of you to reflect on your accomplishments over these past years and applaud yourselves for a job truly well done. I certainly applaud each and every one of you.

Since its inception, Paramount has been synonymous with great theatrical entertainment, and together, we have launched massive global hits like Mission: Impossible—Fallout, and helped build new cinematic worlds, like A Quiet Place and Sonic the Hedgehog, and elevated existing ones, like Transformers and, Star Trek (with new films in the works), among others. From cinematic biopics like Rocketman to targeted hits like Book Club, we’ve created films that we can truly take pride in, and that audiences have responded to.  We’ve worked with and developed future projects with some of the greatest filmmaking and television talent in the world today, too many to mention, but also a source of pride for all of us. We’ve revitalized Paramount Animation, with films like The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, which debuted on Paramount+ this year. 

Time and again, you’ve shown that the cinematic experience matters to people: that if you build something special, they will come. And I have no doubt that with films like Top Gun: Maverick, Scream, jackass forever, the next two Mission: Impossible movies and others, Paramount will only reinforce this fundamental truth. I will be in the audience for films like Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Dungeons & Dragons, The Lost City, Babylon, and others now in production, and have no doubt you will be celebrating their successes as well.


On the television side, we have established Paramount Television Studios as a highly respected provider of series entertainment with 20+ shows in production or on the air at various platforms and networks, including hits such as “13 Reasons Why” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Defending Jacob,” “Made for Love,” the upcoming series “The Offer,” about the making of The Godfather, for Paramount + and “American Gigolo” for Showtime, among many others.

These achievements would be a source of pride and accomplishment under any circumstances, but you’ve built these successes even while weathering an often debilitating global pandemic, and have done so with grace and grit. Time and again, you’ve proven that if you must be in the foxhole, this is the team I’d want to be with.  

Our shared success has been driven by two core pillars: the brilliant talent of the storytellers we work with, and the fantastic team of colleagues of which we have all been so fortunate to be a part. The opportunity to revitalize Paramount, build first-class executive and creative teams, and restore it to both creative success and profitability has been and will remain something I will always cherish, and I owe that success to all of you.  

I wish all of you continued success and joy, and thank you for all you have done. I have resisted naming any of you individually at the risk of being disrespectful to others, and I couldn’t possibly acknowledge each of you in this note anyway, but I am truly honored to have worked with my senior team, and all of you here and around the world. I’m sorry these past 18 months have limited our opportunities to be together and see each other, but from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all for making Paramount the incredible place that it is, and this experience leading you among the finest of my life. 

I’m also proud of the enormous effort and resources we have dedicated to one of the most important aspects of our business today and in the future, diversity, equity, and inclusion. While there is still a lot of work to be done, the focus we have put on these efforts has shown results, and the potential for a more just and equitable industry for all.

As you know Brian Robbins, who is currently President and CEO of Nickelodeon and Chief Content Officer of Kids & Family for Paramount+, will be taking over the leadership, and many of you know Brian from his time working with us and building Paramount Players. I wish him great success and know that together you will continue to build the next chapter of Paramount’s great legacy.

Once again, my gratitude and fondest wishes to you all.

Jim

###

From Variety:

Brian Robbins Officially Tapped to Lead Paramount

Brian Robbins has officially been named president and CEO of Paramount Pictures, replacing Jim Gianopulos as head of the studio behind the “Mission: Impossible” and “Transformers” franchises, and setting up a new era in the oversight of one of Hollywood’s big movie studios.

Robbins will take the reins while continuing in his current post as head of Nickelodeon and as the chief content officer of kids and family for Paramount Plus, the streaming service launched this year by Paramount’s parent company ViacomCBS. Gianopulos will serve in an advisory role at Paramount through the end of the year. The media conglomerate hopes that Robbins, who boasts digital savvy and a long history in kids programming, will help guide it as it looks ahead to a future dominated by streaming giants.

“Paramount is one of ViacomCBS’s crown jewels, delivering some of the most iconic moments in entertainment for more than a century. The moves we’re making today will build on Paramount’s strong momentum, ensuring it continues to engage audiences at scale while embracing viewers’ evolving tastes and habits,” said Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS. “A passionate storyteller who takes a holistic view of the entertainment ecosystem, Brian is an expert at building powerhouse global franchises by leaning into the unique strengths of new and established platforms – including theatrical releases, streaming, linear, consumer products and more.”

News of Robbins’ promotion leaked on Friday, stunning many studio insiders with the ouster of the well-liked Gianopulos, but a formal announcement came Monday. Robbins is a former child actor who once starred on ABC’s “Head of the Class.” He reinvented himself as a producer and director, overseeing such films as “Hardball,” “Varsity Blues,” and the critically pummeled “Norbit,” before becoming an entrepreneur. Robbins launched AwesomenessTV, a YouTube channel aimed at teenagers,  which he later sold to DreamWorks Animation and then Viacom. After rejoining Viacom in 2018, Robbins led Paramount Players, a production division that created the likes of “What Men Want” and the live-action adaptation of “Dora the Explorer.”

Robbins reportedly sold ViacomCBS head Shari Redstone on his vision for the studio and his plans to shift its emphasis in the direction of feeding Paramount Plus with content as it struggles to compete with streaming giants like Netflix, Disney Plus and HBO Max. In his new capacity, Robbins will oversee films produced for Paramount Plus. His elevation could be destabilizing. Gianopulos has assembled a talented core of executives, many of whom, such as motion picture group president Emma Watts, worked with him previously during his long stint at 20th Century Fox. It’s unclear if they will stick around under a new regime.

At Paramount, Gianopulos restored the money-losing studio to profitability, oversaw box office hits such as “A Quiet Place” and “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and guided the company through the darkest days of the pandemic, selling movies like “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Without Remorse” to streaming services when theaters were shuttered.

He sounded a valedictory note in his statement. “I’ve been privileged to be part of this amazing world of film and television for almost 40 years, and at the heart, it was always driven by two principal things: the brilliant talent of storytellers, whose visionary expression excelled in every medium and whom I did my best to empower, and a fantastic team of colleagues who helped me make that happen,” he said. “I’ve been honored to help guide the evolution and massive expansion of creative content, from the birth of video to global TV access, to the launch of iTunes, to ubiquitous internet availability, and now the streaming revolution. The opportunity to take the reins at Paramount and revitalize it, build first-class executive and creative teams, and restore it to both profitability and creative success has been a source of pride. Brian has a long and successful career, and having worked closely with him, I know he and the team at Paramount will have great accomplishments in the future. I wish them all the very best success.”

“Jim is nothing less than legendary in this business, and I am humbled and grateful to him for his years of mentorship and friendship during our time working together,” said Robbins in his own statement. “I am excited about the future for Paramount Pictures, and I want to thank Bob Bakish for the opportunity to use this incredibly powerful and broad canvas to produce films for every audience and deliver them in the ways today’s consumers want to experience them.”

In addition to Robbins’ promotion, David Nevins, the longtime Showtime chief, will take on oversight of Paramount Television as the studio undergoes a restructuring and leadership change. Nicole Clemens, who has headed up Paramount TV since 2018, will now solely report to Nevins.

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From Deadline:

ViacomCBS CFO Sees New Paramount Chief Brian Robbins “Aggressively Embracing Streaming, Changes In Consumer Behavior”

ViacomCBS CFO Naveen Chopra — asked Tuesday about Paramount’s management shakeup — said outgoing studio CEO Jim Gianopolus “leaves some very big shoes to fill. There is no doubt he has helped revitalize the studio both creatively and financially. But I think Brian [Robbins] is really the perfect person to take the reins from here.”

Robbins heads Nickelodeon and will keep that role. At a virtual media conference Q&A by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Chopra called the exec “a very passionate storyteller [who will] leverage the benefits of the traditional parts of the business, like theatrical distribution, while also aggressively embracing streaming and changes in consumer behavior.” Robbins assumes charge of films produced for Paramount+ and continues to oversee kids and family content globally for the streamer.

The change, announced officially yesterday, also has Showtime CEO David Nevins expanding his portfolio with Paramount Television Studios. Chopra called it “a very accretive move for us” — CFO speak — and said Nevis has “incredible track record of creating culture-defining content that is both commercially successful and critically acclaimed and now he will be able to do that with an even broader purview.”

“At the end of the day we are a content company and what Brian and David will be able to do is to take our content to the next level to feed multiple parts of our business.”

Asked by analyst Jessica Reif Ehrlich if the streaming wars have dimmed the overall value of movies , Chopra said no.

“Movies are extremely important to us and continue to be a very unique storytelling media that are critical to developing franchises and really being able to connect to audiences. Movies have always had the ability to be monetized through various different channels, and the difference is that today we have more distribution options for films than we ever had.”

He said Paw Patrol, released day and date with Paramount+, exceeded internal box office targets for an exclusive theatrical release – “meaning the release on Paramount+ and in theaters was synergistic.” He thinks cinema play did a lot to “eventize” the streaming release – it was one of Paramount+ most-watched originals – and visa versa.

If depends on the film and decisions will be taken one by one. He said Paramount recently pushed Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick into next year (and moved out Mission: Impossible 7). “The theatrical environment is still very dynamic and very different in different parts of the world, and we just have found that in order to maximize the value of those assets it makes sense to wait,” je said.

Chopra reiterated plans to boost streaming content spend to $5 billion by 2024 from $1 billion last year, and an estimated $2 billion-plus this year and said streaming revenue should more than offset declines in linear affiliate revenue. “We strongly believe that streaming is a net addition to our business, not a replacement.”

He said ViacomCBS will continue divesting non-core assets, as per CNET, Simon & Schuster and Black Rock, and could pursue acquisitions along the lines of its investment in Miramax and a push into local content production. It recently bought Chilevisión from WarnerMedia. Chopra didn’t mention bigger deals but the company has been the focus of M&A speculation for months since a consolidation wave hit the industry as WarnerMedia and Discovery plan to combine and MGM to sell itself to Amazon.

ViacomCBS did ink two international streaming deals recently with Comcast’s Sky. The first is a commercial deal in big western European countries where Sky will distribute Paramount+ to pay TV subscribers that take its cinema tier. The second is a joint venture with Comcast focused on smaller markets mostly in Eastern Europe that creates a new streaming service called SkyShowtime.

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Originally published: September 13, 2021.

Additional source: The Hollywood Reporter.

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