At New York's Times Square in October 2019, three dozen LCLD Fellows took a run at show business, filing into the headquarters of Viacom, the mass media conglomerate, for a day-long Learning Experience at a company famous for iconic entertainment brands such as Paramount, Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central.
There they were welcomed by General Counsel Christa D'Alimonte (below), who began by providing an overview of the Viacom legal department. She also described her own career journey, from an Associate at Shearman & Sterling working on Viacom matters, to joining Viacom's legal department in 2012 and rising to GC in 2017. She answered Fellows' questions on topics ranging from long-term career planning to choosing outside counsel and the role of innovation in the entertainment industry.
The day was structured as a series of panel discussions.
The first focused on Viacom's Media Network Business and was moderated by 2013 Fellow Caryn Groce, SVP, General Counsel, Viacom International Media Networks.
David Stonehill, SVP, Deputy General Counsel, Business & Legal Affairs, Ad Sales/Digital, provided an overview of the company's media networks and showed the first of many entertaining "sizzle" reels featuring Viacom brands. 2016 Fellow Mitch Carbullido, SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Distribution & Business Development, and Sam Cooper, EVP, Sales, Distribution & Business Development, discussed the decline of traditional television, Viacom's media partnerships, and how distribution channels have changed and evolved. Ellen Dominus, EVP, Ad Sales discussed advertising solutions for the company's partners, and Katherine Liu, SVP, Strategy & Business Development, Viacom International Media Networks, discussed the company's international media networks and the brands recognized across the globe. The Fellows asked many questions, including about diversity on television (both programming and ads), and the media's responsibility for shaping culture through content.
Next was a panel on Viacom's Filmed Entertainment Business featuring 2015 Fellow Jose Avina, SVP, Legal Affairs, Paramount Pictures; Andrew Gumpert, Chief Operating Officer, Paramount Pictures; and 2018 Fellow Tara Hitchcock, SVP, Legal Affairs, Paramount Pictures. The panel walked the Fellows through the lifecycle of a film, including source materials, acquisition of rights, story development, contracts with talent (writers, producers, director, and actors), production, and the challenges of global marketing and distribution. The discussion ended with a sizzle reel featuring Paramount's 100 years of moviemaking.
Viacom's Global Consumer Products group were the next presenters of the day. Pam Kaufman, President, Viacom/Nickelodeon Global Consumer Products, oversees all merchandising and retail operations for brands in the Viacom portfolio. She discussed the structure of her team, categories of consumer products, and product collaborations. She also presented two case studies (with accompanying sizzle reels) featuring best-selling consumer product brands Paw Patrol and JoJo Siwa. She also outlined new partnerships that have arisen out of the YouTube market.
Rich Maluga, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Consumer Products & Location-Based Experiences, and Sara Newbold, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Consumer Products & Location-Based Experiences discussed licensing structures, royalty deals, and international products. Finally, the panel addressed the importance of its products being representative and accessible to the diverse consumers that buy its products.
After lunch, the Fellows heard from a panel of Viacom attorneys. Moderated by 2018 Fellow Alice Kim, SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Knowledge Management, it featured 2015 Fellow Jose Avina, SVP, Legal Affairs, Paramount Pictures; 2013 Fellow Caryn Groce, SVP, General Counsel, Viacom International Media Networks; 2017 Fellow Nur-ul-Haq, VP, Counsel, Business & Legal Affairs, Kids' Compliance; 2018 Fellow Tara Hitchcock, SVP, Legal Affairs, Paramount Pictures; Andrew Hughes, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, IP/Litigation; Tiffany Pollard, VP, Senior Counsel, Corporate Transactions; and Nadja Webb, SVP, Deputy General Counsel, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks. The Fellows Alumni on the panel discussed takeaways from their LCLD Fellowship year and gave advice to the current class. Other topics included the "best career advice ever given," mentors and sponsors, effective leadership traits, managing outside counsel, and getting into the media business.
The next session was on Viacom's corporate culture. Mari Talai, Manager, Communications, discussed Viacom's values and SPARK, the company's three-day multi-market global town hall. Adam Robinson, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, presented on community investment and employee engagement. He also discussed the company's cause marketing and its stance on issues affecting the nation. In response to the shooting at Parkland, Florida's Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, for example, all Viacom television channels went dark for 17 minutes, honoring the 17 victims, in support of a national student walkout.
Next, Jason Williams, VP, Diversity & Inclusion Strategy, discussed the office of global inclusion, employee resource groups, Viacom Inclusion Week, and the Viewfinder Emerging Director Program. Finally, Sarah Harp, VP, Senior Counsel, Treasury, discussed pro bono and the company's partnerships with law firms on pro bono projects.
Fellows next got an insider's look into the making of a television show. Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard (below), SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks talked about how Viacom's Business and Legal Affairs (BALA) helps turn ideas into programming. BALA has an important role in all aspects of the process including pitches, budgeting, production, production services, and releases. William Tran, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Employment Law/Production Risk, focused on casting and pre-production. He discussed issues and challenges working with reality show participants, including minors and foreign actors in the US on visas.
Next, Janet Borelli, SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Multiplatform Standards & Practices, and Yvette Encarnacion, SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks Production Content Review, gave insight on content review, assessing legal issues, handling production-related claims, and ethics standards. They used a clip from an MTV show, "Teen Mom OG," to demonstrate legal and ethical issues that their department handles. Fellows had several questions for this group, including the challenges posed by the rise of reality shows and the prevalence of unrepresented pitch-writers.
The last session of the day featured the team responsible for Viacom's live events such as the MTV Video Music Awards, Comedy Central Roasts, and Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards.
Tanya Guzman, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks; Lance McPherson, SVP, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks; Barbara Pereda, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks; and 2016 Fellow Ranfi Rivera, VP, Business & Legal Affairs, Viacom Media Networks-all work to ensure the successful production of Viacom's live event programming. The group discussed the legal issues that can arise depending on the event, as well as the myriad approvals and contracts needed to produce a live show. To highlight their work, the team used clips from the 2009 Guys Choice Awards and Missy Elliott's 2019 VMA performance. The Fellows asked a number of questions related to the talent approval process and assembling event teams.
After a group photo in the Viacom Sky Square Amphitheatre, Christa D'Alimonte, who was present for most of the day, delivered closing remarks and invited the Fellows to remain for a cocktail reception with Viacom Fellows Alumni and panelists.
The night before the Learning Experience, LCLD Member law firm Shearman & Sterling hosted a welcome dinner at The Lamb's Club in the Chatwal Hotel. Earlier in the day, Sheppard Mullin, an LCLD Member law firm, had hosted a CLE in conjunction with Pollyanna entitled, "Through the Lens of the U.S. Census: A Review of the Fluctuating Social, Historical, and Legal Construction of Race in the United States."
LCLD would like to thank Member Christa D'Alimonte and the entire team at Viacom for hosting this Learning Experience. Thanks also to Sandra Bang, Taylor Cross, Jacqueline Altamirano Marin, and Steven Sharpe from Shearman & Sterling LLP; and 2015 Fellow Rena Andoh, Lois Durant, Cynthia Ontiveros, and Nicolle Gibney from Sheppard Mullin.