CEO: All Five 2022 Paramount Theatrical Releases Topped Weekend Box Office, Heading to Paramount+

Paramount Pictures is on a roll. The studio has dominated the 2022 theatrical season, with all five of its big screen releases topping the weekend box office in their debuts.

Led by Top Gun: Maverick, which opened with $126.7 million in revenue across North America, Paramount saw Scream, Jackass Forever, The Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 all finish No. 1 at theaters. The last four titles all began streaming on Paramount+ 45 days after their theatrical debut — a strategy Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish says helps lure moviegoers to the cineplex while also driving SVOD subscriptions.

“Franchise, franchise, we really love them” Bakish said June 14 at the virtual Credit Suisse 24th Annual Communications Conference. “Our position as a diversified business fundamentally improves the economics of streaming.”

Bakish said the growth in box office and streaming has been accomplished by a strong content portfolio, with spending across the company reaching $15 billion. He said some content investments is performing “double duty” across multiple platforms.

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Paramount Pictures created the Netflix original movie Senior Year, which topped the streamer’s weekly English-language chart in its debut. The Lost City is currently the top-streaming movie on Paramount+, while the crime TV series “NCIS” and “FBI,” among others, are also popular on the SVOD platform, according to Bakish.

“That drives advanced return-on-investment (ROI) for us,” said the executive. “We see tremendous benefits from that. We’re excited about our streaming business and as an extraordinary valuation creation opportunity for Paramount.”

Upcoming movie releases include Jerry & Marge Go Large and Secret Headquarters on Paramount+ on June 17 and Aug. 5, respectively. Babylon hits the big screen on Dec. 25.

Paramount CEO Bakish Eyeing 3 Million DTC Sub Loss in Q2 Due to Russia/Ukraine Conflict

The ongoing military conflict between Russia and neighboring Ukraine is expected to cost Paramount Global upwards of 3 million direct-to-consumer subscribers in the current second quarter, ending June 30.

Speaking on the May 3 fiscal call, CEO Bob Bakish said the sub losses are due to the company’s decision to withdraw all business operations from Russia in response to the government’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine — a conflict that has resulted in the destruction of Ukraine cities, deaths of thousands of soldiers on both sides, in addition to thousands of innocent Ukraine civilians.

Bob Bakish

Bakish said the decision to suspend business in Russia would negatively affect full-year pre-tax earnings by $70 million to $80 million, the largest component of which will fall to the TV Media segment.

The executive said Paramount is in the process of reviewing existing streaming bundle relationships in Russia. And starting in the current quarter, Bakish said he expects Russian subscribers will be removed from reported D2C subscribers.

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“This change will reduce Q2 D2C subscriber growth by approximately 3 million subs, roughly two-thirds of which are subscribers to a non- Paramount+ service specific to the Russian market,” Bakish said.

Except for the removal of subscribers to streaming services in Russia, Bakish said Paramount Global’s full-year D2C sub growth expectations are unchanged.

“Given the nature of the affected services, the financial contribution is immaterial,” Bakish said.

With Paramount+ not available in Russia, the sub loss won’t affect the SVOD, unlike Netflix, which is projecting a two-million sub loss in the current quarter, much of it due to the Ukraine conflcit.

Paramount Global Latest Entertainment Giant to Pull Out of Russia Over Ukraine Invasion

Paramount Global March 15 became the latest Hollywood business to cease all operations in Russia due to the ongoing conflict in neighboring Ukraine. CEO Bob Bakish reportedly disclosed the move in a company memo. The erstwhile ViacomCBS has also donated $1 million in humanitarian aid to those affected by the war.

Bob Bakish

In the memo, Bakish wrote that Paramount is “taking a series of steps to suspend our operations in Russia, including pausing the supply of Paramount Global content. We have announced that Paramount Pictures will pause the theatrical release of our upcoming films in Russia, including The Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Simon & Schuster has suspended sales to accounts in Russia, along with the licensing of translation rights to Russian publishers.

“Additionally, Paramount Consumer Products will pause all new licensing deals in Russia. Other activity, including the distribution of linear channels and some content licensing, will take more time to pause due to existing contractual, technical and partner complexities.”

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Bakish also wrote that in addition to the corporate donation, “employees are encouraged to directly help those in need as this humanitarian crisis unfolds. Eligible employees in the U.K. and the U.S. can take advantage of the Paramount Matching Program, which we are working to expand to additional international regions (more information will follow shortly).

In addition, we are using our content and capabilities to help those in need, including the power of our global platforms to ensure the world bears witness to this tragedy, as well as to support humanitarian relief efforts. The courageous news teams at CBS News, Channel 5, Chilevision, Network 10, and Telefe have been reporting around the clock from on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

Channel 5 recently aired a fundraising special, Ukraine: How YOU Can Help, in the U.K. MTVE has initiated a global call to action across linear and social for audiences to donate funds to support relief efforts across several organizations, including World Central Kitchen, International Medical Corps, Save The Children, UN Refugee, UNICEF and more. Our Consumer Products team is donating toys, products, and funds to organizations that are supporting kids and families from Ukraine who are seeking refuge. And, our team is working to quickly bring Ukrainian-language kids’ content to European countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and France for free on Pluto TV, and to Poland through local Nickelodeon distribution partners. And there’s more underway and to come.”

Paramount+ Posts Big Sub Gain as ViacomCBS Rebrands to Paramount

ViacomCBS during a Feb. 15 investor event announced its streaming service, Paramount+, added 7.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31) to bring its total sub count to 32.8 million.

The media company also announced a name change to Paramount Global, “or, more simply, Paramount,” according to a memo to employees from  CEO Bob Bakish and non-executive chair Shari Redstone.

Bob Bakish

The name change takes effect Feb. 16 and comes “one year since the spectacular launch of Paramount+ and two years since the successful merger of Viacom and CBS,” according to the memo. “In that time, we have shown the world what we knew from the start: that together, aligned around a shared vision and shared strategy, we create a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

ViacomCBS executives attributed the Paramount+ streaming gain to Clifford the Big Red Dog, the live-action family film that debuted on Paramount+ the same day it opened in theaters, as well as original films Mayor of Kingstown, the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” and South Park: Post-COVID. Execs also credited live events, NFL football games and bundling discounts.

Showtime also gained 2.1 million streaming subscribers to boost ViacomCBS’s total combined sub gain to 9.4 million, for a new total of 56 million.

Pluto TV, the company’s free, ad-supported streaming service, posted a 45% revenue gain to $362 million, while its monthly active user base rose by 10 million to more than 64 million.

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In a financial report, ViacomCBS said total company revenue increased 16% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $8 billion, “reflecting growth across all revenue types.” Quarterly global streaming revenue was up 48% year-over-year to $1.3 billion, a gain the company attributes to subscription growth and a spike in advertising sales.

Profits, however, were down, with adjusted earnings of $557 million compared with $1.18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.  

“For more than a century, the name Paramount has been synonymous with great entertainment and industry leadership,” Bakish and Redstone wrote in the memo. “It’s part of our history, as pioneers of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But as Paramount+ has made clear, it’s also about our bright future. And, not least, it’s an idea: a promise to be the best. 

“As Paramount, our name will reflect who we are, what we aspire to be, and all that we stand for. It will help advance our strategy of harnessing all our strength and breadth in building the businesses of tomorrow. And it will capture the collective power of our global assets, from our amazing brands — CBS, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+, Pluto TV and more — to our global reach and our diverse audiences. All of which adds up to Paramount being the preeminent home to, and producers of, the world’s greatest content.”

CEO Bob Bakish: Pluto TV Profitable, Paramount+ in a ‘Couple Years’

ViacomCBS’s aggressive foray into streaming video is nearing positive results to the fiscal bottom line, according to CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking Dec. 7 at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference 2021, Bakish said the media giant’s direct-to-consumer segment would realize $5 billion in revenue this year based on the numbers through the current fiscal quarter. While revenue is one thing, the bottom line is another.

Bob Bakish

And for that, Bakish had good news. Pluto TV, the ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television platform, is already turning a profit since ViacomCBS acquired the service for $340 million in 2019. Even better, the AVOD service is generating profit margins that rival broadcast.

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As to Paramount+, the erstwhile CBS All Access streaming service rebranded earlier this year, profitability remains a light at the end of a shortening tunnel. In November, the platform saw its best week (and month) ever in terms of new subscribers with concurrent streaming access to theatrical release Clifford the Big Red Dog.

“We see Q4 accelerating [sub growth]; in fact that acceleration will be greater than when that comment [was made] on the [Nov. 4 fiscal] call,” Bakish said. “[Paramount+] will take a couple of years, as it has for everyone, to get to profitability. But we look at our [projections] and we get to that as well. We’re clearly moving in the right direction.”

The CEO said exclusive content has been a sub driver, with Clifford the most-watched movie on Paramount+ thus far, followed by South Park: Post-COVID, which Bakish said set first-day streaming records on the platform.

“As everyone has probably heard by now, ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ was the No. 1 scripted original drama we’ve launched since the rebrand of [CBS All Access to Paramount+],” he said. “It was also the biggest scripted premiere on broadcast since ‘Yellowstone,’ reaching over 3 million viewers.”

Bakish said the streamer is also benefiting from the cross-platform distribution model moving primetime network TV shows to Paramount+ after initial broadcast episodes — a strategy employed on the series “SEAL Team.”

“We’ve seen that be a nice driver of subscribers,” he said.

ViacomCBS CEO: Paramount Sticking With Multiple Theatrical Windows

With accelerated access to Paramount Pictures’ theatrical releases driving subscriber growth at Paramount+, the studio might appear eager to shorten the theatrical window to as little as 17 days (three weekends) as Universal Pictures does on select movies.

That was the question posed to ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish on the media giant’s Nov. 4 fiscal call. Bakish, who is staking much of the company’s future on streaming, including ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST), said the popularity of streaming and a resurging box office underscore the need to apply a multiple-release strategy on theatrical movies.

Paramount is employing the new industry standard 45-day theatrical window on most releases (shortened from 90 days), while mixing in shorter windows for select titles (i.e. A Quiet Place Part II), and concurrent streaming access on Paramount+ for others (Paw Patrol: The Movie).

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A Quiet Place Part II generated almost $300 million at the global box office, including $160 million at domestic screens, while being offered early on Paramount+. Paw Patrol: The Movie generated $128 million globally, including $40 million domestically, while streaming concurrently on the SVOD since its box office debut.

In the third quarter, Paramount deployed three different release models for theatrical titles, including “exclusive premier,” “day-and-date,” and “45-day window.”

“We’re experimenting with a bunch of [release] models on the Paramount+ side based on what we think is best for a specific film, obviously keeping in mind all the constituents involved in that,” Bakish said.

“The reality is, we see them all work,” he said. “So, it’s not a question of moving away one [window] or the other. We’re going to continue to optimize on a per-film basis. We’re definitely not moving off the ’45-day fast fall.'”

Bakish reiterated that the Quiet Place sequel performed well at the box office, despite the pandemic, while also driving Paramount+ subs. The executive said this weekend’s (Nov. 5) theatrical release, Clifford the Big Red Dog, would stream concurrently on Paramount+.

“We think [the] kids and family [market] in this continued COVID time, [that] these films are right for day-and-date release,” he said.

ViacomCBS Q3 SVOD Subs Near 47 Million; AVOD Monthly Views Top 54 Million

ViacomCBS Nov. 4 announced that its portfolio of subscription streaming video services ended the third quarter (Sept. 30) with 46.7 million global subscribers — up 67% from 27.9 million subs in the previous-year period. The media giant’s subscription streaming services are led by Paramount+, Showtime OTT and Noggin, among others.

The media giant announced a promotional campaign with T-Mobile, affording its smart phone subs (including Sprint) access to 12 months of free Paramount+ access. The promotion, which begins Nov. 9, applies to new and existing subscribers.

Separately, ad-supported VOD/FAST platform Pluto TV ended the quarter with 54.4 million monthly average users, which was up 52% from 35.8 million MAUs in the previous period.

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“We added 4.3 million global streaming subscribers … driven by the scaling of the diverse content offering on Paramount+,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement, adding that Pluto TV would be a $1 billion revenue asset in 2021.

Paramount+ viewership increases have been driven in part by a content offerings that theatrical releases A Quiet Place Part II and Paw Patrol: The Movie, in addition to the Return of the NFL, and the new CBS fall primetime season.

“Looking forward, we’re thrilled about the fresh array of content coming to Paramount+ in the next few months and can’t wait to share it with our global audience,” Bakish said. “Our strategy is clearly working and we’ll continue to use the power of global content, distribution and market expansion to drive scale.”

Shari Redstone, Bob Bakish Credit Late Hasbro CEO for Viacom, CBS Merger, ‘Transformers’ Movies Success

Following the death of Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, Shari Redstone, non-executive chair of the ViacomCBS board of directors, late Tuesday hailed Goldner for his efforts in helping her re-unite Viacom and CBS Corp. in 2019.

Goldner, who died Oct. 12 at the age of 58 following a seven-year battle with cancer, had served on the ViacomCBS board. He was instrumental in transforming toy properties “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” into movie franchises

Brian Goldner

Redstone said Goldner’s “guidance and leadership” not only contributed to the ViacomCBS merger, but also in the execution of a “vision that has significantly shaped the company and will take us well into the future.”

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“While I will always be grateful for the incredible contributions Brian made to this company, what we will all miss the most is his wisdom, his kindness, his commitment, and his friendship,” Redstone said in a statement. “He will always hold a special place in our hearts and he will be forever missed.”

Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said Goldner not only transformed Hasbro from its traditional roots in toys and games into a multi-platform content creator, as a member of the ViacomCBS board, he was an “essential voice” guiding the evolution movies, toys and consumer goods, in addition to championing “our commitment to sustainability.”

Across seven movies, the “Transformers” franchise has generated $5.8 billion at the global box office, in addition to hundreds of millions more in home entertainment and consumer products revenue.

“[Goldner’s] passion for delighting consumers also shone through in his long-time partnership with Paramount Pictures that helped build Transformers into an iconic film franchise,” Bakish said. “We extend our deepest sympathies to Brian’s family and to the entire Hasbro community during this difficult time.”

Bob Bakish: Paramount Theatrical/Streaming Co-Releases Limited to Family Movies

Paramount Pictures’ theatrical release Paw Patrol: The Movie was the studio’s first concurrent box office/Paramount+ streaming debut — a strategy the studio plans to employ going forward on family movies, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told an investor group.

Speaking Sept. 22 on the virtual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Bakish said Paramount would stick to a shortened 45-day exclusive window for major releases such as A Quiet Place Part II, Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7.

The executive said the simultaneous release of Paw Patrol on Paramount+ made the movie the most-watched original title on the platform, and helped drive box office. The animated movie has generated $37.2 million in U.S. theaters, $103.3 million worldwide.

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“The combined release strategy drove incremental performance,” Bakish said. “We think that’s actually a good [distribution] model for kids and family films, particularly in these COVID times. It gives consumers optionality, where they feel most comfortable. We did a bunch of research on that.”

The CEO said Paw Patrol outperformed The Green Knight at the box office, despite the latter releasing exclusively in theaters. He said the concurrent release also helped Paramount “eventize” the movie’s release across ViacomCBS properties, including consumer products.

“We promoted Paw Patrol both in theaters and on Paramount+ on over 2 million [consumer product items] at retail,” Bakish said. “That, too, built excitement around it.”

The studio is also releasing the upcoming Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin and The Space Between exclusivity to Paramount+. The studio is also releasing the first two episodes of original Paramount+ crime drama “Mayor of Kingstown” on the Paramount Network before reverting exclusively to the streaming platform.

“We think exclusive availability, particularly at lower budget level movies, is a compelling value creation opportunity for streaming,” Bakish said.

Comcast, ViacomCBS Bosses Reportedly Met to Discuss International Streaming Pact

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts, and ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone and CEO Bob Bakish reportedly met recently to discuss partnering in an international streaming video venture.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the executives met at the end of June in New York to discuss possible scenarios in which the two media giants could partner in advancing their respective streaming platforms.

Shari Redstone

Comcast’s NBCUniversal launched the Peacock SVOD/AVOD platform last summer, while ViacomCBS transitioned CBS All Access into Paramount+ in March. Both platforms have international aspirations in an attempt to remain competitive with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

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Bob Bakish

Working together could benefit the companies as Comcast’s Roberts has publicly expressed a desire to find business partners for international expansion. Paramount+ plans to operate in 45 countries by 2022.

Netflix has seen the bulk of its subscriber growth originate outside the United States, while one-third of Disney+ subs come from India. Comcast also owns streaming service Now TV in the United Kingdom, operated by its Sky satellite TV subsidiary.

Regardless, strange bedfellows is indeed a possibility considering that since its launch, Peacock has generated 45 million sign-ups, but reportedly only about 10 million paying subscribers. ViacomCBS in May disclosed that its Paramount+, Showtime OTT and BET+ platforms had a combined paying sub base of 35.9 million.

By comparison, Netflix had 208 million subs at the end of March, a tally that could be closer to 210 million through the streamer’s fiscal second quarter, ended June 30. Prime Video touted 175 million subs two months ago, while Disney+ tops 103 million.