CBS All Access and Showtime OTT Top 16.2 Million Combined Subs

ViacomCBS — which is planning to rebrand CBS All Access into a “super service” on par with HBO Max, Peacock and Disney+ — Aug. 6 reported its SVOD services CBS All Access and Showtime OTT reached 16.2 million combined subscribers through the second quarter ended June 30.

That’s up 74% from 9.3 million subs during the previous-year period.

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The company announced All Access continued to break undisclosed records, with paid subs, streams and minutes watched reaching all-time highs in the quarter — driven by original programming, Paramount movies and children’s content from Nickelodeon. Showtime OTT also delivered its “best quarter ever” in subscriber sign-ups, streams and minutes watched, the company announced, driven by original programming, including “Homeland,” “Billions” and “The Chi.”

Separately, ViacomCBS-owned AVOD platform Pluto TV grew its domestic monthly active users 61% to 26.5 million, from 16.5 million during the previous-year period. In April, Pluto TV entered 17 Latin American markets, and in addition to its presence in Europe, this expansion brought Pluto TV’s total international monthly users to 6.5 million — or 33 million worldwide. Pluto TV increased its platform distribution through deals with Verizon, TiVo and LG.

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ViacomCBS said domestic streaming and digital video revenue in the quarter rose to $489 million, up 25% year-over-year, driven by 52% growth in streaming subscription revenue.

“Our results underscored … rapid acceleration of our streaming business, where we achieved record users and revenue in free and pay while building toward the relaunch of our diversified super service,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

Indeed, last month ViacomCBS unveiled the first major step in transforming All Access in early 2021. The company added more than 3,500 episodes from the ViacomCBS portfolio, spanning series from BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian and more. The All Access library now has more than 20,000 episodes and movies. The platform will be home to a slate of new original and exclusive movies and series, including “Big Brother Live Feeds,” “The Stand,”  animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” feature film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and “Kamp Koral,” a new original kids’ series premiering in 2021 and the first spinoff derived from “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The new All Access will also feature live programming, including news, tentpole events, sports, local CBS stations nationwide and CBSN, CBS News, The Super Bowl, The Grammy Awards, The Academy of Country Music Awards and The Tony Awards. It will also feature major sporting events from golf to football to basketball and UEFA club soccer competitions as the exclusive streaming home to the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League in the United States.

Bakish: Paramount Jumpstarting Biz Through Digital Retail

Paramount Pictures, like other studios, has seen its production business and theatrical slate upended by the coronavirus pandemic. The studio has been able to keep the lights on over the past three months in large part to transactional VOD and premium VOD, according to ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking on the first Credit Suisse Virtual Communication Confab, Bakish said home entertainment has helped Paramount justify capital spending on new movies during a year of uncertainty.

“We sold The Lovebirds [to Netflix] early in the COVID-19 window,” he said. “We also accelerated the EST window with Sonic [the Hedgehog], which performed very well for us.”

The movie, starring Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter and Ben Schwartz as the voice of Sonic, gross more than $300 million at the global box office before the theatrical shutdown.

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The executive said the company is monetizing the Paramount library by releasing more than 100 movies via CBS All Access and through the Sunday Night Movie on the Paramount Network.

“We’re already seeing a material benefit on the time-spent side by consumers,” Bakish said.

“Look, COVID in the short term has set us back in terms of film releases and TV productions, obviously,” he said. “But we continue to see a path to nicely improved profitability over the longer term.”

CEO: ViacomCBS Looking to Supersize CBS All Access as Streaming Focus Skyrockets

In just a few years ViacomCBS has gone from owning a kidvid-centric subscription streaming video service (Noggin) to operating AVOD juggernaut Pluto TV, CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, among others.

Speaking from home on the Credit Suisse Virtual Communications Confab, CEO Bob Bakish said the media giant, which owns Paramount Pictures, would launch a reboot of All Access in 2021 with 15,000 hours of additional programming — featuring 200 local CBS TV stations, ad-supported “CBSN,” “Sports HQ” and “ET Live.”

All Access will soon stream the National Women’s Soccer League, which could be the first U.S. professional team sport to return from the COVID-19 break.

“We have a good position in the older segment with the current All Access product, but this really brings a lot of young audience to the table,” Bakish said. “We view streaming as a significant growth opportunity.”

CBS All Access and Showtime OTT topped 13.5 million combined subscribers through the most-recent fiscal period (March 31) — with significant signups since during the virus pandemic.

“We view that as a clear indicator of the growth potential of these products,” Bakish said.

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Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Bakish said the company has seen “robust consumption across all our platforms,” including linear TV news stations and “record” streaming on CBSN.

Separately, the executive said PGA Tour’s return to CBS Sports the weekend of June 11-14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Dallas/Ft. Worth generated a 50% uptick in TV viewership from the previous-year period. Bakish said the ratings were the highest for a golf event in 15 years.

Comedy Central has also extended “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” to one hour from the previous 30 minutes.

ViacomCBS Looking for $2 Billion in New Debt

With record low interest rates and global pandemic, ViacomCBS is seeking upwards of $2 billion in new debt offerings to help fund operations — notably streaming video — which include Paramount Pictures, Pluto TV, CBS All Access, Nickelodeon, CBS, Showtime Networks, MTV, Comedy Central and BET.

The funding comes on top of $2.5 billion in bonds ViacomCBS issued in April. The media company also has a $3.5 billion credit revolver.

“It means we are in excellent shape from a liquidity perspective,” CEO Bob Bakish said on last week’s fiscal call.

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Bakish said the company plans to launch an international branded streaming video service to compliment All Access, Showtime OTT and Pluto TV in the United States. Showtime and All Access combined to reach 13.5 million subs in the fiscal quarter — up 50% from the previous-year period.

“This service will harness the full power of the of the ViacomCBS portfolio, creating a meaningful brand presence in streaming video in key markets around the world,” Bakish said.

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It’s a ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ World at ViacomCBS

“SpongeBob SquarePants” may be an American animated comedy television series originally created for Nickelodeon, but the series about a sea sponge and his aquatic friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom is also a distribution goldmine for ViacomCBS.

So much so that CEO Bob Bakish used the cartoon character to underscore how the media giant hopes to monetize content assets across emerging distribution platforms.

Speaking March 4 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab in San Francisco, Bakish outlined how “SpongeBob” IP helps link ViacomCBS’s three business units: linear television, video streaming and feature film.

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Bakish said the cartoon franchise is currently distributed globally on television, including serving “roughly 40% of all children” in the United States. “SpongeBob” is distributed on both ad-supported Pluto TV and subscription-based CBS All Access and Noggin.

“That provides additional reach as we build out our assets,” Bakish said. “In the studio business, ‘SpongeBob’ will debut its third feature film, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in the second quarter. That film has tested very well and provides incremental reach and incremental monetization.”

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) generated $140 million at the worldwide box office, including $85 million in the United states. A sequel, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) generated $325 million at the global box office, including $163 million in the U.S.

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Bakish said ViacomCBS is producing two feature-length “SpongeBob” spin-off movies for Netflix, representing a “profitable, low-risk rental business with set margins,” which he said translates to content ownership for separate distribution down the road, including consumer products and recreation.

“So, we’re convinced that both an O&O [owned and operated] and a third-party studio strategy is absolutely right for ViacomCBS,” Bakish said. “We believe that maximizing the value of our content asset, that is what you see us executing in 2020 and beyond.”

At Paramount Pictures, Bakish said the focus is to improve content ROI, which he said means a balanced release slate and co-financed movies. Pending releases include: A Quiet Place Part II and Top Gun: Maverick.

The studio in the most-recent fiscal period generated more revenue from home entertainment than theatrical distribution. Bakish dismissed that “aside” and pointed to Paramount’s improved growth in revenue and earnings over the previous eight fiscal quarters.

He said the studio has ramped up television content production, a business that didn’t exist five years ago. The segment is now producing 27 series, including “13 Reasons Why” for Netflix and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime Video.

Bakish said Paramount’s “pay 1 window,” the period in which content rights are available to premium cable networks as Starz and HBO and subscription streamers like Netflix, has “tremendous” value.

“We’ve certainly gotten calls about it,” he said. “At the same time it certainly has strategic value to us.”

ViacomCBS Expanding All Access SVOD Platform to Include Other Brands

ViacomCBS’s flagship subscription streaming service is moving beyond the CBS brand to include other properties within the media giant’s portfolio.

Speaking on the Feb. 20 fiscal call, CEO Bob Bakish said the All Access expansion would include incorporating content from Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET and Smithsonian, in addition to movies from the Paramount library.

The company also acquired a 49% stake in Miramax for $375 million, giving ViacomCBS digital properties access to long-term distribution rights to a catalog of more than 700 titles.

“We will do this at scale to the tune of approximately 30,000 TV episodes and up to 1,000 movies,” Bakish said.

The changes come as ViacomCBS domestic streaming and digital video revenue in 2019, which included subscription revenue and digital video advertising, increased 60% to $1.6 billion across Pluto TV, All Access and Showtime OTT.

The company expects domestic streaming and digital video revenue to increase 35% to 40% in 2020 based on SVOD subs reaching 16 million and domestic Pluto monthly average users topping 30 million by the end of the year.

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All Access is available in Canada and Australia, while ViacomCBS Networks International operates a Paramount+ service streaming in parts of Europe and Latin America offering both movies and TV shows.

Bakish said the All Access revamp would occur over the coming months to better “expand the value” of entertainment, news and sports content through on-demand and “live experiences” for subscribers around the world.

Launched in 2014, All Access, which is priced at $5.99 per month with ads ($9.99 without), is different from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu by also offering live sports, including NFL football and more than 200 local CBS affiliate stations.

“We have designed this offering to be compatible with the evolving [over-the-top video] distribution landscape,” Bakish said. “We see it as a value creating opportunity to further broaden our partnerships with traditional distributors, akin to our recent Comcast relationship expansion to All Access.”

ViacomCBS: Pluto TV Expected to Generate 30 Million Monthly Viewers by December

ViacomCBS has high hopes for ad-supported Pluto TV. Acquired in January 2019 for $340 million, the San Francisco-based service now features 80 content channels, 22 million monthly viewers and has become a cornerstone of the media giant’s digital strategy.

The company’s other two high-profile subscription streaming video-on-demand platforms — CBS All Access and Showtime OTT — have a combined 11 million subscribers. That tally is expected to reach 16 million by the end of the year, according to CEO Bob Bakish.

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The sub disclosure is interesting since previous acting CEO Joe Ianniello stated late last year that both services already had reached 16 million subscribers. All Access and Showtime actually ended 2019 with 10 million subs, up from 8 million in 2018.

“The [streaming] growth we’ve achieved so far is overwhelmingly in the U.S., but we’re making early strides to expand internationally,” Bakish said on the Feb. 20 fiscal call.

Pluto TV is available in the U.K., Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with roll out planned in Latin America next month. CBS All Access is available in Canada and Australia and Paramount Plus and Noggin streaming platforms are also available in territories outside the U.S.

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George Cheeks Named New CBS Chief Executive, Replacing Joe Ianniello

As expected, ViacomCBS Jan. 31 announced that George Cheeks has been appointed president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, effective March 23, 2020. He succeeds Joe Ianniello, chairman and CEO of CBS, who will be leaving the company. Ianniello will work with the company to ensure a smooth transition.

George Cheeks

Cheeks joins ViacomCBS from NBCUniversal, where he most recently served as vice chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios. In his new role, Cheeks will lead CBS-branded assets, including CBS Television Network, which encompasses CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports, CBS Television Studios and CBS Television Stations and CBS’ first-run syndication business. He will also partner with the ViacomCBS digital organization on the CBS-branded digital assets, including CBS All Access. Cheeks will report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS.

“Throughout his career, George has built broad experience in broadcast and studio operations and brings a unique mix of skills – combining deep commercial expertise and industry relationships with strong creative and programming capabilities,” Bakish said in a statement. “With his finger on the pulse of culture and change and his strong grasp of strategy, brands, audiences and content monetization, George will help CBS build on its position as the most-watched broadcast network and drive results across the entire CBS portfolio.”

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Bakish praised Ianniello for his 22 years at CBS, which included stints as COO and negotiating the minefield following the ouster of previous CEO Les Moonves for inappropriate workplace behavior.

Joe Ianniello

“Thanks in no small part to his efforts, the CBS brand has a strong and loyal following across a variety of platforms – positioning it well for this important next chapter. The board and I wish Joe every success in his future endeavors,” Bakish said.

Ianniello doesn’t leave empty handed. The executive reportedly got a $100 million severance following the merger between CBS and Viacom. He got millions more as acting CEO of CBS Entertainment Group.

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“Throughout my 22-year tenure I have always said that the quality and integrity of the people of CBS are what make it great,” said Ianniello. “We have extraordinary employees at all levels of this organization, and I couldn’t be prouder of how they do their jobs day in and day out. Working with Bob, I now look forward to ensuring a smooth transition to the next phase of leadership of CBS, so that the Eye can continue to thrive, just as it has for so long.”

During his time as acting CEO, Ianniello successfully grew CBS into a global multiplatform premium content company. Prior to that as COO since 2013, he was responsible for establishing and executing company strategy across all businesses. In addition, Ianniello developed and spearheaded the company’s monetization strategy across platforms, including retransmission consent fees and reverse compensation from local television station affiliates, as well as the licensing of the CBS Corporation content around the world for digital streaming and broadband services.

He also oversaw the launch of CBS All Access, CBS’ digital subscription video on-demand and live streaming service, as well as Showtime’s “over-the-top” streaming service. He led CBS’  acquisition of Network 10 in Australia and the split-off of CBS Radio through a merger with Entercom. In addition, he led the conversion of CBS Outdoor into a real-estate investment trust, marking a first for an outdoor advertising business.

As Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios, Cheeks helped run NBCUniversal’s television studios. Previously, he served as Co-Chairman of NBC Entertainment, where he was jointly responsible for the network’s primetime, late night and scripted daytime programming – including business affairs, marketing, communications, scheduling, West Coast research and digital operations and first-run syndication.

Prior to joining NBC in 2012, Cheeks served as EVP, Business Affairs and General Counsel for Viacom Music and Entertainment Group, while also serving as Head of Standards and Practices for Viacom Media. Before that, he served in legal roles at Nickelodeon, MTV, CMT and LOGO.

 

Comcast Eyeing Ad-Supported VOD

With ViacomCBS staking much of its over-the-top video future on Pluto TV, the ad-supported video-on-demand platform, Comcast reportedly is considering joining the AVOD market that also includes Tubi TV.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources, reports the cable giant is in advanced talks to acquire Xumo TV, the Irvine, Calif.-based service offering more than 140 digital channels of programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment. Content partnerships include CBSN, People TV, College Humor, and History, as well as the PGA Tour, among others.

The Xumo app is currently available on Roku and embedded in several smart TVs from Samsung, Panasonic and Vizio — the latter based in Irvine as well.

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Comcast unit NBC Universal is launching SVOD platform — Peacock — in April, 2020. Acquiring Xumo could help the cabler sustain its pay-TV legacy through an ad-based business model in the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem.

Comcast isn’t commenting on the scuttlebutt, but CFO Michael Cavanagh, speaking Dec. 9 at the UBS 46th Annual Global Media and Communications confab in New York, said the company was entertaining the AVOD market in response to a SVOD landscape dominated by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+.

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“We think we’ve got a pretty special opportunity [with AVOD], when you think about the relatively underserved segment of premium content ad-supported,” Cavanagh said. “Our work shows us that consumer demand is there.”

Indeed, since ViacomCBS acquired Pluto earlier this year for $340 million, the company has made the platform centerpiece to its global digital distribution strategy.

“Our focus on an investment in Pluto is evident,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said on the recent fiscal call. “In Q4 alone, Pluto launched 43 new channels and last month, Pluto Latino added 11 new channels given the platform of total 22 channels with over 4,000 hours of Spanish and Portuguese language programming.”

New AVOD roll-outs and improved ad-tech are expected to drive U.S. online video advertising revenue to $27 billion in 2023, according to IHS Markit Technology.

“The AVOD goldrush is here, and it represents a prime opportunity for service providers, new AVOD entrants and content companies,” said senior research analyst Sarah Henschel.

 

ViacomCBS Acquires Stake in Miramax

ViacomCBS has reportedly acquired 49% stake in Miramax, the film studio founded in 1979 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and owned and operated over the years by several corporate suitors — including Disney.

Qatar-based owner BeIN Media Group sold the stake for $375 million, according to Variety, which first reported the deal.

The deal gives ViacomCBS joint ownership of Miramax’s catalog of 700 movies, 278 Academy Award nominations and 68 Oscar-winning titles, including four Best Picture awards for Chicago, Shakespeare In Love, The English Patient and No Country For Old Men.

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beIN will retain a 51% stake in Miramax and the distributor’s current leadership team.

“This partnership … will be a unique opportunity to gain access to a valuable library, deepening our already substantial pool of IP at a time when demand for premium content is only accelerating,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said in a statement.

Indeed, expect Miramax titles to find their way onto ViacomCBS’ ad-supported Pluto TV service, as well other SVOD platforms CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, among others.

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Other well-known Miramax titles include Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, among others.

“We look forward to working closely with the Miramax management team as we explore new ways to deliver its titles across a variety of platforms and create new, compelling projects,” Bakish said.

Miramax content has been a steady supplier of home entertainment packaged media. Amazon says current bestselling Miramax DVDs include The Spy Kids Trilogy, Black X-Mas, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Smoke Signals and Rounders.