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.

ViacomCBS Dealing With OTT Video Largesse

Until this year, Viacom had scant over-the-top video product — Noggin, a $7.99 monthly service targeting young children with Nickelodeon-type fare.

Viacom in March acquired ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV for $340 million. This summer the media giant launched BET Plus — a $9.99 service targeting African-American streamers.

Following the re-merger with CBS Corp., Viacom inherited CBS All Access ($5.99), Showtime OTT ($10.99) and Smithsonian Channel Plus ($4.99) SVOD. In the process, Viacom has myriad OTT distribution while at the same time giving mixed signals about a unified ViacomCBS vision digital leadership going forward.

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Speaking Dec. 9 with CNBC’s David Farber, Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, was asked about the fact that Marc DeBevoise, CEO of CBS Interactive, reports to him for the all digital assets. And  to Joe Ianniello, CEO of CBS, for CBS Interactive.

“That doesn’t sound like an efficient way to go about trying to extract synergies and the growth,” Faber asked Bakish.

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The CEO claimed Viacom’s digital properties operated successfully under separate silos before the merger, a reality the merged companies could rejigger going forward.

Bakish agreed that working together on paper is different than in practice. He alluded to Viacom International originally operating independently and now as a multinational unit. Bakish added that when he became CEO in 2016 (replacing Philippe Dauman), Paramount Pictures operated independently, as did the company’s media networks.

“We took the last three years and really aligned that,” Bakish said.

He said ViacomCBS is putting forward an integrated company with one strategy. He said the revised blueprint would include paid and ad-supported content — with the widest access based on paid content.

“Today, in pay, [we’ve] got 10 million subs in SVOD in the U.S.,” Bakish said. “In free, [we’ve] got 20 million [monthly average users] at Pluto. We’ve got almost 200 million digital users. And we reached well over a billion through our broader business.”

He disagreed with the assertion that a high percentage of Viacom’s digital subs are promotional, rather than paying.

“That’s flat out wrong,” said the CEO, while declining to disclose actual digital revenue. Backish said the data would be revealed in 2020.

“You should expect some additional transparency in the streaming space,” he said. Viacom has heretofore just released Pluto viewership.

“You should expect that to broaden,” Bakish said. “We absolutely are going to operate as one ViacomCBS.”

 

 

 

As Planet Earth Turns to Streaming Video, ViacomCBS Aims for Pluto (TV)

Prior to Viacom’s re-merger with CBS Corp., the media giant had scant over-the-top video properties. Now with the addition of CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, the company claims about 16 million paying subscription streaming subscribers.

That’s 20% less than the 20 million monthly viewers who stream content for free on Pluto TV — the San Francisco-based ad-supported VOD service Viacom acquired earlier this year for $340 million.

That user tally reflects a 70% year-over-year gain in consumer traction for Pluto and underscores Viacom’s strategic move to compete against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and other high-profile SVOD services with old-school ad-supported content.

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“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.”

The opportunity for Pluto TV Latino is significant given the size of the Hispanic population, as well as gaps within the existing programming landscape. As the largest minority market, the group has a combined buying power of $1.5 trillion, according to research from the University of Georgia.

The once-dominant Spanish-language broadcast network, Univision, has been steadily losing viewers for years and has been locked in a battle with Comcast-owned Telemundo for younger, bilingual viewers. Meanwhile, streaming services such as Hulu, Sling, and fuboTV offer Spanish-language content, but the additional cost of these services is leading to “subscription fatigue.”

“There are all sorts of creative programming ideas we can test with the audience that hasn’t been done before,” Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, said. “If they work, we can be nimble and double down on them.”

Indeed, AVOD revenue is projected to more than double between 2018 and 2024, topping $56 billion across 138 countries — including the U.S.

Next year, NBC Universal is launching an ad-supported streaming service dubbed “Peacock,” which joins industry players such Tubi TV, which bowed in 2014 with more than 9,000 movies and television shows, Amazon’s IMDb TV and The Roku Channel, among others.

“The U.S. will more than triple its AVOD revenue total between 2018 and 2024 to $19.23 billion — or 34% of the global total,” said Simon Murray, analyst with Digital TV Research.

Bakish said Viacom would continue to grow Pluto TV distribution globally and on new platforms, which he said would benefit both viewers and business partners.

He said Pluto has not only been a driver to restoring overall Viacom ad sales growth, it’s also been a platform to enable Viacom to “radically” increase the number of clients it does business with.

“In the crowded subscription universe, as consumers become increasingly more value conscious, we strongly believe that having the leading free streaming service in the country and over time, the world is a huge competitive advantage,” Bakish said.

 

Paramount’s Dan Cohen Adds Duties With Viacom/CBS Re-Merger

ViacomCBS announced a series of senior executive changes to go into effect following regulatory approval of the $30 billion re-merger between the two media  companies.

Dan Cohen, president of worldwide home entertainment and television distribution, Paramount Pictures, has been named president, global content licensing at ViacomCBS when the merger is finalized.

Cohen was promoted to worldwide home entertainment and television distribution president in February, assuming the role previously held by Mary Daily, who had overseen international theatrical marketing and home entertainment for Paramount since 2017, but was promoted to co-president of worldwide theatrical marketing and distribution.

Previously, Cohen served as Paramount’s president of worldwide television licensing.

Before joining the studio in 2017, he spent more than 20 years at Disney-ABC, where served as EVP of pay television and digital for Disney-ABC worldwide home entertainment and television distribution. There, he licensed films and series, including across digital platforms, on behalf of Walt Disney Studios, ABC Studios and Disney Channel.

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Cohen reports to Armando Nuñez, president and CEO of CBS global distribution group, and chief content licensing officer of CBS, who will also serve as chairman, global distribution and chief content licensing officer at ViacomCBS.

Nuñez will oversee all content licensing, including worldwide distribution and domestic syndication, for ViacomCBS-owned programming to third-party platforms.

“These appointments mark an important step in the integration of CBS and Viacom,” Bob Bakish, CEO of Viacom and soon-to-be CEO of the combined companies. “The seasoned executives we announced today will capitalize on ViacomCBS’s must-watch programming, iconic library and franchises, as well as its global production capacity to drive important new distribution, content licensing and advertising opportunities all over the world.”

 

Julia Phelps Upped to Chief Communications Officer at ViacomCBS

CBS and Viacom Aug. 29 jointly announced that Julia Phelps has been named EVP, chief communications and corporate marketing officer of ViacomCBS, effective upon closing of the deal to combine CBS and Viacom.

Phelps, who has served as EVP of communications, culture and marketing at Viacom since 2017 will report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon close.

In her new position, Phelps will lead the combined company’s corporate communications, corporate marketing, corporate responsibility, special events and internal creative teams.

Julia Phelps

“Julia has been a vital force in shaping and communicating Viacom’s strategy, and revitalizing its vibrant culture and dynamic, entrepreneurial spirit,” Bakish said in a statement. “Her leadership and skill in communicating and driving change will be invaluable as we bring together the talented teams of CBS and Viacom.”

Phelps’ appointment follows the Aug. 28 announcement of Wall Street analyst Anthony DiClemente being named EVP of investor relations at ViacomCBS, also effective upon close.

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“Julia and Anthony are both highly experienced executives who have contributed significantly to the respective success of Viacom and CBS. I look forward to working with both of them, drawing on their insights and expertise, as we pursue a powerful growth strategy anchored in ViacomCBS’s position as one of the most important content producers and providers in the world,” Bakish said.

In her previous position, Phelps oversaw a variety of important initiatives, including the development and roll out of Viacom’s corporate mission, vision and values; the global launch of “Spark,” a next-generation town hall to equip and engage employees; and “Generation Change,” a global platform designed to elevate and empower young people who drive change around the world.

Before that, Phelps served as EVP of communications at Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), where she led VIMN’s internal and external communications efforts for Viacom’s international brands, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount Channel, VH1, COLORS and Channel 5.

Previously, she served as SVP of corporate communications for VIMN and as VP of Corporate Communications for Viacom.

Phelps first joined Viacom in 2005 from New York based agency DeVries Public Relations. A native of Canada, Phelps earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, and an M.S. in strategic communications from Columbia University.

CEO: ViacomCBS Merger Offers ‘Unmatched Scale’

Corporate synergy and scale are two key economic points underscoring the $30 billion re-merger of Viacom with CBS.

Speaking Aug. 14 with CNBC, Robert Bakish, current Viacom CEO and future head of the renamed ViacomCBS, said the combined media company would offer “unmatched scale” with 140,000 television catalog episodes and 3,600 movies, including content from Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios.

Bakish said CBS’ early move toward direct-to-consumer content distribution with CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, and Viacom’s acquisition of ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV well-positioned the rebooted media company in the in the streaming video era .

“[That’s] not something people have talked about a lot [regarding the merger],” he said.  “You unite those two together and you really have a D-to-C ecosystem. Very compelling, both with substantial — millions of users.”

When asked whether ViacomCBS could successfully match Disney, Netflix or WarnerMedia, Bakish said scale could be viewed subjectively.

“Between the studios that we operate, Paramount, CBS Television Studios, Nickelodeon Animation and Viacom International Studios, we have 750 series ordered or in production. There is true content scale here,” he said.

“There’s no question the companies are stronger together than they were independently. And, you know, we’re going to start executing with that.”

The executive defended the companies’ downward revised cost savings from $1 billion to $500 million.

“This is excluding programming, excluding marketing, excluding revenue. So, there’s a very material opportunity. And as we get into it we’ll move forward and begin to realize that [cost saving],” Bakish said.

The initial pushback on the deal from former CEO Les Moonves disappeared following  the executive’s ouster due to #MeToo allegations.

Bakish contends the cultures at Viacom and CBS have a lot in common — with both companies focused the content creation and distribution.

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“An employee of CBS News loves CBS News, just like an employee at MTV loves MTV,” he said. “There’s incredible value in the combination. You look at the strategy we’re going to start executing against. Building a real leadership position in D-to-C through this combination of subscription product and ad-supported product. This ecosystem, tremendous opportunity there. You look at expanding the partnerships and building new partnerships with advertisers, with distributors. Tremendous opportunity there for all of the people that work in that area. You look at being one of the most significant content suppliers in the world. Tremendous opportunity there. So, I think very quickly this culture will come together.”

With Moonves out, former CFO Joe Ianniello has held the acting CEO position. Following closure of the merger, he will become CEO of CBS, reporting to Bakish.

Ianniello reportedly has a clause in his employment contract paying him $70 million severance should he not retain the top executive job.

“I’ve known Joe Ianniello for 20 years,” Bakish said. “I have tremendous respect for what he’s done at CBS. He’s clearly a world class executive. He and I have spoken a lot in the days leading up to yesterday. And including yesterday. And there is a tremendous interest, joint interest, in unlocking the value of these combined companies.”

Bakish said Ianniello would take the leadership position, running the CBS branded assets upon closing.

“We need someone to run those assets,” he said. That’s a big complicated business. He is ideally suited to do it because he has, you know, 20 years of knowledge in that space and a real passion for it. At the same time, he knows that we have to create value from these assets. We are going to have to work across the company. He’s 100% committed to it and I can’t wait to get on with it with him.”