Dec 21, 2018

By Nicole Bitette
Thanks for a string of multifaceted talent deals inked in 2018, next year promises to be full of fantastic originals from Viacom’s creative roster.

Viacom continues to boast plenty of on-screen talent — but this year it also solidified talent partnerships behind the scenes with big names like George Clooney and Trevor Noah.

The company is committed to maintaining long-standing relationships talent, leading President and CEO Bob Bakish to dub it a “strategic priority.” Many of the talent have called some of its networks home — like Noah, who hosts Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Josh Horowitz, who got his start on MTV News and is now working on content for Viacom Digital Studios. Viacom also locked down multiple projects with Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, the stars and creators of Comedy Central’s breakout hit Broad City, which will come to an end in 2019.

In anticipation of the projects to come, we put together a roundup of the landmark talent who agreed to bring their talents to Viacom in the pursuit of great content.

Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s talents extend far beyond late night. Noah signed a comprehensive deal with Viacom in March that gives the company first-look rights to anything the comedian creates, spanning television, feature films, and short form video content.

The first project happening for Noah is the upcoming adaptation of his memoir Born a Crime, with already cast Lupita Nyong'o as his mother. The film will be produced by Noah’s Zero Day Productions in tandem with Paramount Players.

“Trevor’s creative sensibilities and ability to drive the cultural conversation around issues that matter to our young, global audiences make him an ideal partner for Viacom across every screen we serve,” said Bakish. “We are particularly proud that Born a Crime will be produced and distributed by Paramount.”

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson

The Broad City ladies may be saying goodbye to the hit Comedy Central series when the final season airs in January, but they’re staying in the network family. The pair already has multiple projects after signing a first-look deal with the network in April.

Broad City has been our baby and first love for almost ten years, since we started as a web series. It’s been a phenomenal experience, and we’ve put ourselves into it completely. Broad City’s always had a spontaneous pace and feeling, and ending after season five honors that spirit,” Glazer and Jacobson said. “We are very excited to bring new voices and points of view to Comedy Central and continue our collaboration together in new ways.”

Up next for the dynamic duo are three series: Mall Town USA, Platinum Stars and Young Professionals.

George Clooney

One of America’s biggest movie stars landed a deal with Paramount TV.  George Clooney and Grant Heslov locked down a deal between their production company, Smokehouse Pictures, and Paramount TV, which is behind the upcoming series Catch-22 on Hulu.

The deal, announced last October, allows Paramount TV first right to anything created by Clooney and Heslov. “They are first-class filmmakers and producers with a nose for unique stories with deep thematic resonance,” Paramount TV President Nicole Clemens said in a statement.

Chris Distefano

Brooklyn funnyman Chris Distefano is extending his relationship with Comedy Central in an multifaceted deal that covers several projects already in development, including an animated series, an unscripted series, a podcast, and the continuation of his show, Stupid Questions with Chris Distefano.

“All of my ideas and everything I was trying to do with my career, I would always just pitch it to Comedy Central and say to myself, ‘this could work at Comedy Central,’” Distefano, who formerly had a deal with MTV, told Viacom. “It’s what I would prefer to do anyway because my comedy is for them. The way I think is the way I think — it just made sense to do a deal there.”

In addition to Distefano’s one-hour stand-up special Chris Distefano: Size 38 Waist, which will air on Jan. 18, he’ll also have a second one-hour airing later this year.

Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart’s humor will soon be marketed to a younger generation. The comedian inked a first-look deal with Nickelodeon last October to develop and produce live-action, scripted kids content for the network under his HeartBeat Productions banner. Hart has proven his cross-generational appeal with the Nick audience: in 2014, he won the Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Funny Star, among others.

“For me, Nick has always represented everything fun about being a kid, and it’s still at the forefront today of kids’ and family entertainment,” Hart said when the deal was announced.

“I’ve been slimed at Kids’ Choice, won a lot of Orange Blimps and my kids are my very own built-in focus group,” he said. “So I’m ready to dive in and make some next-level shows with Brian and everyone at Nickelodeon.

Bill Burr and Al Madrigal

Bill Burr and Al Madrigal’s production company, All Things Comedy, signed a deal with Comedy Central last September, including a new stand-up series hosted by Burr, plus three hour stand-up specials.

The first special as part of the deal: Bill Burr Presents Paul Virzi: I’ll Say This premiered last November.

“We are all very excited here at ATC to be in business with Comedy Central,” said Burr. “They gave me my first national exposure with a half-hour special back when I was just starting out.”

Boris Kodjoe

Real Husbands of Hollywood star Boris Kodjoe inked an exclusive development deal with his former network home, BET, and will develop ideas and show concepts for the network.

“His work both in front of and behind the camera has earned him fans around the globe and we look forward to working closely with him on content ideas that will resonate with our audiences across all platforms,” said Connie Orlando, EVP and Head of Original Programming, BET Networks.

Kodjoe, who also stars in the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off Station 19, says he’s excited to be part of the network that’s “shaped popular culture for decades.”

Josh Horowitz

MTV News correspondent Josh Horowitz also found a more permanent home with Viacom this year.

Horowitz, who has worked as a correspondent at MTV since 2006, will develop digital franchises for the brand, while also working on branded content through Viacom Velocity, MTV, and Comedy Central as an extension of Viacom’s recent push to focus on short-form content through Viacom Digital Studios. As part of the new partnership, he’ll also work with Paramount Network in 2019.

His sketch comedy series, After Hours (formerly on MTV) was relaunched on Comedy Central last August.

Anthony Jeselnik

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik is strengthening his relationship with Comedy Central after signing a multiplatform development deal in September.

Jeselnik, whose series The Jeselnik Offensive ran on the network for two seasons will now executive produce an untitled, half-hour TV series as part of the agreement. He also joins his best friend Gregg Rosenthal as host of the weekly podcast The Jeselnik and Rosenthal Vanity Project.

Regarding the deal, Jeselnik joked, “sometimes the best move is a lateral move!”