As a child of the 70s and 80s MTV has always retained a sense of coolness with me and once you get past the street vendors snaking their way up Camden High Street, the Viacom – home of MTV – office still has a certain edginess to it and is somewhere that has an instant appeal.
Once inside it is very easy to feel energised by the layout and thriving hub that makes up the office and it is here that we interviewed Philip O’Ferrall, head of Viacom Velocity International and executive vice president, Viacom, on the latest trends and insights dominating media around the world.
After starting a journey of disruption more than 10 years ago O’Ferrall is delighted that understanding and turning disruption into revenue is finally the key to success in the current media climate.
“The whole industry is continuing to be disrupted and it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. When I first suggested planning growth on platforms that we don’t own people asked ‘are you for real?’ but luckily it has proved to be a success,” explained O’Ferrall.
One of the keys to Viacom’s success has been its ability to disrupt internally, which has allowed the audience to come with the company and its products.
O’Ferrall added: “The great thing is we have developed this disruption, but now we need to build revenue, but it’s an exciting journey from TV to new platforms and to live events.”
“The biggest opportunity is getting better at putting our content in disruptive environments, which will drive consumers back to our platforms, and how we turn 300-400 million interactions into ad revenue.”
“It is also important to remember – and this is being brave – that as a media owner you don’t have to own all of the distribution channels, you just need to produce engaging and resonating content.”
It is clear that as a media owner content is the number one piece to get right and in 2017 Viacom took this so seriously it spent $4bn on curating new content that reaches more than 50% of the world’s youth population.
Being able to adapt is key and in a world where consumers are now using AI to order food, products and services it is becoming clearer events are more important than ever for brands looking to provide vital touchpoints. It means that being nimble, understanding where your consumers are and how to interact is the route to success for a media owner in this media eco-system.
‘There is real growth in the event side of the business and this is all about being in the right place for our audiences. You have to continually evolve the offerings as people want a curated experience,” added O”Ferrall.
“New technological developments are all good and part of the landscape, but actually more and more people want to turn up at an event and know that something is happening, and it feels like the media and entertainment sector is definitely coming back in terms of importance.”
Complimenting all of this is social content and it is here that O’Ferrall was very candid when revealing how a decade ago the first three or four years of it were really hard for the company in this space, but now admits it has become easier and it means the business has been able bring exciting talent with lots of different skill sets.
“Not so many years ago you could spend months producing a beautiful piece of content for one platform, now it is about creating something for various platforms. It’s much tougher, but more exciting,” added O’Ferrall.
Ensuring all of this comes together and continues to deliver it is important to have an inclusive workforce representing society, and in fact this chat came just hours after Viacom was awarded with being one of the best places to work in TV, while O’Ferrall himself is in the Pride Power list Top 20 and also in the top 20 of last year’s OUTstanding list of the best 100 LGBT executives in Europe.
“Inclusion is at the heart of everything we do and we advocate that every employee brings their whole self to work because it is imperative we represent global society, and this works from the boardroom to the operational roles across the company,” added O”Ferrall.
“The biggest challenge we have is to make sure it’s not just a leadership message, but from top to bottom and we do this by handing over some of the responsibility to our employees to help guide the company culture and ensure we adhere to everything we talk about.”
It is clear that in a sector of disruption – which is often more positive than negative – Viacom and O’Ferrall have a clear vision, are not afraid to be brave and are keen to try new things in an attempt to stay abreast of continually evolving consumer consumption habits, which marks the business out as a beacon for all other traditional media owners on how they not only survive, but thrive in challenging times.