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.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish: Pluto TV to Exceed $1 Billion in Revenue by Q4

ViacomCBS has put much of its content distribution future on the Paramount+ subscription streaming service, but the media giant is already dominating the ad-supported streaming market, said ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking at the virtual Evercore ISI Inaugural TMT Conference, Bakish said the global AVOD market, which is exploding as consumers migrate away from pay-TV and toward over-the-top video, is going to be worth about $50 billion in the next four years. Leading the bull run: Pluto TV, which ViacomCBS acquired in 2019 for $340 million. Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan is now CEO of streaming at ViacomCBS.

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“[Pluto TV] is the U.S. market leader, and it’s also undergoing rapid international expansion, making us a global leader as well,” Bakish said. “You look at the U.S., and based on all the data we see, we lead on the [50 million monthly average users] side, we lead on the viewership side and we lead on the revenue side.”

Bakish said that when Pluto was acquired, it had generated about $70 million in revenue in the prior year (2018). On a run-rate basis, in Q4 of 2021 this year, the CEO said Pluto will cross the $1 billion level.

“We expect it to be comfortably above $1 billion for full year 2022,” he said. “That is the power of Pluto TV.”

While the platform is essentially still a U.S. business, it is expanding to 25 foreign markets this year.

“So we see where this thing is going,” Bakish said. “We’ve seen where it’s gone in the U.S., and it’s got a ways to go, and we see where it’s going internationally. I couldn’t be more excited about Pluto. I don’t think we get enough credit, quite frankly, for it.”

Bob Bakish: ViacomCBS Looking to Spend $5 Billion on Streaming Content by 2024

ViacomCBS’s ambitious plans to average an original new movie a week on Paramount+ in 2022 now has a price tag: $5 billion. That’s the figure CEO Bob Bakish told shareholders on the May 25 virtual annual meeting.

The company spent a total of $15 billion on all content in 2020, with plans to spend $5 billion exclusively on streaming content by 2024.

ViacomCBS is adding 1,000 movies to the $4.99 monthly with ads ($9.99 without) platform in June; elevating the total to 2,500 movies by July.

“That number includes content exclusively for our streaming services and some allocation of highly valuable content that we’ll use across both streaming and traditional [television and theatrical distribution],” Bakish said.

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Bob Bakish

As previously reported, in June Paramount+ will exclusively debut the new science-fiction thriller Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Antoine Fuqua, skipping theaters in the process. It was originally slated to launch in theaters on Sept. 24.

Paramount Pictures shortened to 45 days theatrical windows for  A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 in an effort to expedite access to the SVOD platform. New “Paranormal Activity” and “Pet Sematary” releases will also forgo theatrical distribution.

“You will see us scale up more of our content on Paramount+,” Bakish said, adding that select scripted series such as supernatural drama “Evil” would be moving from linear channels to streaming.

“Season one was a hit on Netflix,” Bakish said. “Season two will be moving exclusively to Paramount+.”

CBS series “Seal Team” will debut select episodes on the network this fall before moving the entire season onto streaming.

CEO: Paramount+ Free Trial Conversion Better Than CBS All Access

When Paramount+ launched March 4, absorbing the existing CBS All Access subscription streaming service, new subscribers were offered a generous 30-day free trial period. That policy, which ended March 31, resulted in higher conversion rates to paid subscriptions ($5.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without) than had occurred at All Access, according to Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS.

Speaking May 6 on the company’s fiscal call, Bakish said a strategy of frontloading Paramount+ with movies and the Super Bowl helped reduce churn and increase the paid base.

“Believe it or not, the conversion rate was actually marginally above our historical trial conversion rates,” Bakish said. “So we are happy about that.”

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According to Parks Associates, about 30% of free trial users convert to paid subscriptions, with just 1% of users becoming so-called “serial trialers,” jumping from one free subscription period to the next. Most SVOD platforms have reduced free trial periods to seven days.

“Most consumers use trials for their intended purpose of trying out a service before deciding whether or not to continue as a paid subscriber,” read the Parks report.

Bakish said Paramount+ is focused on “ramping up” original content from throughout the ViacomCBS brands, in addition to releasing a new movie weekly on the platform, beginning in 2022. The platform will exclusively debut Mark Wahlberg’s new sci-fi thriller Infinite in June.

“Both conversion and churn [at Paramount+] improved in April, both versus prior-year and versus March,” Bakish said. “We feel great about what we’re seeing in this area.”

Paramount+ ended the quarter with 36 million subs globally when combined with Showtime OTT. The two services topped 19.4 million subs in the U.S. through Feb. 24.

Paramount+ to Debut New Mark Wahlberg Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Infinite’

Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) in June will exclusively debut the new science-fiction thriller Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Antoine Fuqua, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said on the May 6 first-quarter (ended March 31) fiscal call.

The movie will skip theaters, Bakish said. It was originally slated to launch in theaters on Sept. 24 — then subsequently got pushed up to Memorial Day, according to Box Office Mojo.

The move mirrors WarnerMedia’s strategy to release the entire 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical slate concurrently on its streaming service HBO Max and in theaters — a strategy corporate parent AT&T has attributed to ongoing Max sub growth.

Paramount, which generated a record low $1 million in revenue during the 90-day fiscal period due to shuttered theaters, had previously announced shortened theatrical windows for  A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 in an effort to expedite access on Paramount+. New “Paranormal Activity” and “Pet Sematary” releases will now also forgo theatrical distribution for the streamer.

Paramount previously licensed Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and the comedy The Lovebirds to Netflix. The studio also licensed rights to Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, starring Michael B. Jordan, and Eddie Murphy sequel Coming 2 America to Amazon Prime Video. Oscar winner The United States vs. Billie Holiday was licensed to Hulu.

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Paramount+ will add 1,000 movies in June as part of a “Mountain of Movies” marketing campaign designed to upgrade the platform’s title count to 2,500.

“All of this is a preview to a substantial ramping up of original movies next year, when we expect to begin averaging an original movie a week in 2022,” Bakish said.

Bob Bakish Defends Paramount+ Shortened Theatrical Window

Notable to the Feb. 24 Paramount+ media presentation was the fact the platform would stream first-run Paramount Pictures theatrical releases as early as 30 days after their box office debut. The move mirrors similar efforts at other studios, notably by Universal Pictures, to release its movies into consumer homes as early as 17 days after their theatrical bow depending on ticket sales.

Speaking March 2 on the virtual Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecommunications Conference, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish supported the decision to make movies available early on the Paramount+ streaming service.

He said the fact CBS All Access is assuming the Paramount+ moniker on March 4 underscores the importance of feature films and the studio brand in the streaming platform market. To drive that home, Paramount+ will have access to select tentpole titles 30 days to 45 days after their box office debut — beginning with The Quiet Place Part II. Other movies streaming early on the SVOD platform include Mission: Impossible 7 and Paw Patrol.

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Paramount+ is launching priced at $9.99 monthly with no ads except on CBS TV live programming. An ad-supported $5.99 option will reduce to $4.99 in June. Expansion of the platform internationally will include Showtime OTT, but not CBS News or live sports.

“I believe that is a sustainable offering,” Bakish said, alluding to exhibitor concerns an abbreviated theatrical window would undermine the industry. “Some of these other film moves that have been made, it’s not clear that they’re sustainable.”

Bakish said industry data suggests most movies’ box office withers after 30 days, if not sooner. He said Paramount boss Jim Gianopulos held discussions with theater operators and talent before making the decision to shorten the window.

“This move puts the titles in the theaters so people that want to get a big-screen experience can do that … with moving 45 days later to an in-house streaming service works for constituents and certainly for us,” he said. “We believe it’s the right model for the future, and as we implement it, the facts will prove that out.”

In addition, the SVOD platform’s new distribution agreement with MGM-owned Epix, affords Paramount+ access to 2,500 third-party movies Bakish characterized as very high quality, beginning June 4. The SVOD service will also have access to Epix pay-one product and originals.

“It’s a killer offering for film lovers,” he said. “We believe streaming is a global opportunity. [Paramount+] is a differentiated product. It’s not a replica of anything else out there. It is a tremendous offering.”