Sep 21, 2021
By Kelby Clark
From Taylor Sheridan to Kenya Barris, ViacomCBS’ relationships with top-tier talent support the company’s streaming and franchise strategy.
When BET announced the establishment of BET Studios earlier this month, it revealed a commitment to investing in industry-leading talent to create content that appeals to diverse audiences and provides Black storytellers equity ownership. It was also the latest in a list of deals that illustrate how ViacomCBS will continue to create value through franchises and a growing streaming library.
ViacomCBS and its brands have invested in a roster of creators that includes Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek), Tyler Perry (The Oval, Sistas, Bruh, Young Dylan; co-owner of BET+), Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone), Matt Stone and Trey Parker (South Park), Robert and Michelle King (The Good Fight), and Darren Star (Younger).
Earlier this month, Perry premiered his latest scripted series All the Queen’s Men on BET+. In the next few months, Sheridan’s Mayor of Kingstown and 1883, Kurtzman’s animated kids series Star Trek: Prodigy, and two South Park films from Stone and Parker will debut exclusively on Paramount+.
“Franchises are key,” said CEO and President Bob Bakish during the company’s most recent earnings call. “They have broad consumer appeal and awareness. You can do all kinds of things with them creatively, they obviously have commercial potential including extensibility to things like consumer products, and they tend to play globally.”
Below, we’ve outlined some of the talent that’s helping ViacomCBS reach audiences with content that transcends genres, generations, and platforms.
Alex Kurtzman, 'Star Trek' franchise creator, showrunner and executive producer
Earlier this year, Kurtzman extended his exclusive overall deal with CBS Studiosthrough 2026. He is at the helm of ViacomCBS’ efforts to introduce the Star Trek franchise to a new generation of fans. Under his leadership, Paramount+ has debuted multiple new series within the Trek universe including: Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and Star Trek: Lower Decks. Kurtzman and his production company Secret Hideout have been a part of the CBS Studios family for more than a decade due to his involvement in producing multiple projects including the Showtime limited series The Comey Rule, and the CBS series’ Hawaii Five-0, Scorpion, Limitless and Salvation.
Upcoming projects: Star Trek: Prodigy for Paramount+ and Nickelodeon, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for Paramount+, and The Man Who Fell to Earth for Showtime (which he also directs multiple episodes)
Programming perspective: “For me and for showrunners like me, we can tell stories in a new way. We are not limited by the narrow definition of how you tell a story—something must be told in 10 hours, or something must be told in two hours.” (via The New York Times)
Tyler Perry, actor, director, writer, producer, and founder and CEO of Tyler Perry Studios
Since signing an overall deal with ViacomCBS in 2017, Perry has developed and produced multiple series for ViacomCBS platforms, including BET+, a joint venture between the network and his studio. For BET, Perry has produced Sistas, which is currently in its third season and The Oval, which was recently renewed for a third season both premiering in October. On BET+, Perry produced Bruh, which wrapped its second season earlier this year; Ruthless, a spinoff of The Oval, and All the Queen’s Men, which debuted in September. He’s also created and produced Young Dylan for Nickelodeon, House of Payne and Assisted Living for BET.
Programming perspective: “I know to speak to the audience — that is the business; that is the voice; those are the people that matter the most to me.” “It’s amazing to develop great projects with creative, committed, and fun people. I am sure many good things will come out of this [ViacomCBS] partnership.” (via Variety)
Darren Star, creator and executive producer of MTV Entertainment Studio’s 'Emily in Paris' for Netflix and TV Land’s 'Younger'
Screenwriter and showrunner Star’s credits range from Sex and the City, Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place to more TV Land’s breakout series Younger and MTV Entertainment Studios’ Emily in Paris, which was Netflix’s most popular comedy series of 2020. Star entered an overall production and development deal with ViacomCBS’ MTV Entertainment Group to create content for the division’s various networks and P+ through MTV Studios.
Upcoming projects: Comedy series Uncoupled for Netflix, from MTV Entertainment Studios
Programming perspective: “The audience cares about the characters and they want to know what’s happening with them. And once you get invested in the reality of characters, you have to start telling their continuing story over years. So that’s what I’ve been doing.” (via The Hollywood Reporter)
Taylor Sheridan, creator of Paramount Network’s 'Yellowstone'
Sheridan’s drama Yellowstone continues to break ratings records each season, most recently ending 2020 as the most watched cable entertainment program. His current agreement with ViacomCBS, signed earlier this year, runs for five years. Over the course of his career, Sheridan has written, directed, and produced multiple films including Those Who Wish Me Dead, Hell or High Water, Sicario: Day of the Soldado, and Wind River.
Upcoming projects: Mayor of Kingstown and 1883 for Paramount+, as well as Season 4 of Yellowstone for Paramount Network. He also has several other series projects in development for P+.
Programming perspective: “I think that the look of the show [Yellowstone] makes it feel very different from television. We shoot it like a movie. We let the landscape be a character in it. I think it’s extremely well-acted, and I think that it’s just pulp fiction-y enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.” (via Deadline)
Kenya Barris, principal partner at BET Studios, creator of ABC’s 'Black-ish,' and Netflix’s '#blackAF'
Barris is one of the principal partners in BET Studios. Barris’ credits include popular ABC series Black-ish and its spin-offs Grown-ish and Mixed-ish, as well as #blackAF for Netflix.
Programming perspective: “The stuff I want to do is a little bit more edgy, a little more highbrow, a little more heady.” (via The Hollywood Reporter)
Jamie Foxx, actor, singer, comedian, and producer
Foxx along with his producing partner Datari Turner signed a deal with MTV Entertainment Studios earlier this year with the goal of developing original movies helmed by diverse storytellers for MTV’s portfolio of brands.
Programming perspective: “I’ve never had to worry about turning my Black up or turning my Black down. I’ve just been me and it is always worked out for me. When I do that, great things come out of it.” (via Variety)
Jesse Collins, founder & CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment
Collins has been a longtime partner of BET’s, producing network series such as, American Soul, The Bobby Brown Story, The New Edition Story, Real Husbands of Hollywood. He has also produced award shows for the network including the BET Awards, BET Honors, Soul Train Awards, “Love & Happiness: An Obama Farewell,” Sunday Best, and the BET Hip Hop Awards, as well as The Grammys, which airs on CBS.
Upcoming projects: 2021 Soul Train Awards, limited series Uptown for BET, and 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards, airing Tuesday, Oct. 5
Programming perspective: “People didn’t know what to expect [of the 2020 BET Awards], and I think people thought it was going to be a bunch of performances from people’s living rooms and kind of a low production value. What we delivered was the opposite of that. Artists stepped up with their creativity, and we were able to do things that were visually stunning…We spent a lot of time making sure that we were telling the emotional story of the culture.” (via The Washington Post)
Juan José Campanella, Academy Award-winning director, writer, and producer
Campanella signed an overall deal with ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS) earlier this year that spans writing, producing, directing and providing consulting services for the studio. Campanella won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for The Secret in Their Eyes in 2010, and his other credits include 2013 animated film Underdogs, 2004 film Moon of Avellaneda, and 2001 film Son of the Bride.
Upcoming projects: Limited series Los Enviados (The Envoys) for Paramount+
Programming perspective: “It’s amazing to develop great projects with creative, committed, and fun people. I am sure many good things will come out of this [ViacomCBS] partnership.” (via Variety)
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, co-creators of Comedy Central’s 'South Park'
South Park has been on the air for nearly 24 years, making it one of the longest-running series in TV history. Stone and Parker’s recent deal with ViacomCBS, which runs through 2027, includes six more seasons of the animated comedy series in addition to 14 made-for-streaming movies exclusively for Paramount+—two of which will debut exclusively on the streaming service later this year.
Programming perspective: “The show [South Park] is 22 minutes. It’s a sitcom. It is ancient, in a way. But we still really love that. There are ‘South Park’ episodes that are high concept enough where if you wanted to make a movie you could. We wanna scratch both itches. We feel like we can.”—Matt Stone (via Bloomberg)
Robert and Michelle King, co-creators of CBS’ 'The Good Wife,' 'The Good Fight,' 'Evil,' and 'The Bite'
Husband-and-wife duo Robert and Michelle have called CBS Studios their home for nearly 12 years. And the deal renewal they signed earlier this year guarantees they’ll continue to create content for the studio into 2026. The Kings currently have two series airing on Paramount+ including The Good Fight and Evil. Most recently, they also executive produced the Bryan Cranston-led series Your Honor for Showtime, which broke viewership records for the network with its finale watched by about 1.7 million viewers across platforms.
Upcoming projects: Season 2 of Your Honor for Showtime and Season 6 of The Good Fight for Paramount+
Programming perspective: “We love genre work. We love bringing a genre approach, it’s a good prism to see current events through.”—Robert King (via CBS Local)
Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, principal partner at BET Studios, co-creator and executive producer of CBS’ 'S.W.A.T'
Thomas is a principal partner in the recently launched studio venture BET Studios. Through the partnership, Thomas has agreed to an exclusive deal to produce content across a variety of ViacomCBS networks and streaming services, as well as select additional third-party platforms. Currently, he also serves as co-creator and executive producer of CBS drama S.W.A.T. Thomas began his journey at ViacomCBS as a writer’s assistant on Soul Food: The Series. He is also an alumni of the ViacomCBS Global Inclusion Writers Mentoring Program.
Programming perspective: “As a writer of color especially, there's always a plane flying overhead—my responsibility is not simply to entertain but to engage my audiences. S.W.A.T. was born from that notion.” (via ViacomCBS Newsroom)
Tarana Burke and Mervyn Marcano, producers at Field/House Productions
MeToo founder Burke and her producing partner Marcano, under their banner Field/House Productions, signed a deal with CBS Studios earlier this year. Under the agreement, the duo will develop scripted, unscripted and documentary content for ViacomCBS-owned platforms as well as third-party linear television networks and streaming services.
Programming perspective: “Our goal has always been to create a pipeline of culturally progressive programming with our diverse network of creatives and storytellers.”—Mervyn Marcano (via Deadline)
Rashida Jones, principal partner at BET Studios, actor, and producer
Rashida Jones is a principal partner in the recently launched studio venture BET Studios where she will produce content for ViacomCBS platforms, as well as select additional third-party distributors. She currently co-stars with Kenya Barris, fellow partner in BET Studios, in the Netflix series #blackAF.
Programming perspective: “There’s an entire skin, a layer you pull back, and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, there’s 25 seeds here!’ That’s what a character feels like to me: an unexplored, unmined territory that was hiding there all along. But then you have this wonderful opportunity to bring all of that flavor to a character.” (via Backstage)