ViacomCBS International Studios today announced the launch of VIS Social Impact. The new studio division will develop groundbreaking social impact-driven content addressing climate, equity, and health for the ViacomCBS portfolio of brands, including Paramount+, as well as for third-party partners. VIS Social Impact is part of Content for Change, a global ViacomCBS initiative that aims to counteract racism, bias, stereotypes and hate through the company’s culture, creative supply chain, and ultimately the content it creates.
“For decades, we’ve told stories that matter, and we understand the significant role entertainment plays in shaping minds and ultimately driving change. Now with VIS Social Impact, we will harness the power of storytelling to challenge stereotypes, shift perceptions, and create meaningful change in the critical areas of climate, equity and health,” said Raffaele Annecchino, President and CEO, VCNI. “Through ViacomCBS’ massive global footprint and the work of this new studio, we have a responsibility to elevate voices that need to be heard, and to use our content to make a tangible impact on the world’s biggest challenges.”
VIS Social Impact is led by Georgia Arnold, SVP of Social Responsibility, ViacomCBS Networks International, reporting to JC Acosta, President of ViacomCBS International Studios and Networks Americas. Arnold brings decades of behavior-change expertise as the Executive Director and co-founder of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, a highly respected organization whose aim isto protect young people around the world against HIV and improve their sexual and reproductive health. She is also the executive producer of the multi-award-winning MTV Shuga series, which has starred Lupita Nyong’o and Thuso Mbedu, and fuses sexual health messaging with gripping storylines about intimate relationships between young people. Over the last decade, there have been several evaluations that have shown the positive causal impact of watching MTV Shuga and an increase in condom use, HIV testing, and shifting social norms on gender-based violence.
“Georgia is a leader in the social responsibility space with a proven track record of driving groundbreaking social-impact initiatives for our brand,” said JC Acosta, President, ViacomCBS International Studios and ViacomCBS Networks Americas. “Creating this division is a natural evolution for ViacomCBS and further strengthens our commitment to producing best-in-class content that addresses the issues that matter most to our audiences around the world.”
The first VIS Social Impact commission is Protest & Progress, from world-renowned, historymaking photographer and social activist, Misan Harriman. In the 3×60 docuseries to premiere on ViacomCBS’ premium streaming service, Paramount+, at the end of next year, Harriman travels around the world to uncover the stories behind some of the most powerful images and art forms that have defined a moment and a movement. The series will aim not only to educate on the importance of protests, but inspire audiences to remember their voice matters.
“It is an honor to be among the first commissions for VIS Social Impact and to have an opportunity to present the power of photography and art to a global audience on Paramount+,” said Harriman. “This is a passion project that explores how a single image can reflect and influence society and inspire hope.”
In addition, VIS Social Impact will champion diverse creators and content focused on underrepresented communities. The studio will begin this work by launching an inclusive writers’ room focused on scripted ideas powered by a diverse group of creatives, with a strong presence of participants from LGBTQ+ communities. It will be led by actor, writer and director Thishiwe Ziqubu.
“As a gender non-binary creative, spaces where our voices are heard for their pure artistic truth is imperative. Free room for expression of our individual lived experience is rare. I look forward to the tapestry of ideas emerging from this room of Black storytellers with a unique voice,” said Ziqubu.