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.”

 

 

 

CBS All Access, Showtime OTT Top 16 Million Combined Subs

When CBS launched subscription streaming services CBS All Access ($5.99) and Showtime OTT ($10.99), it projected 16 million standalone subscribers by 2022.

Now that tally has been reached through the third quarter of the current fiscal year, ended Sept. 30 — via some creative accounting.

Speaking on the Nov. 12 fiscal call, acting CEO Joe Ianniello was asked about the the 4% uptick in combined services’ subscriber counts and how that related to company SVOD projections.

Ianniello, who is reportedly set to receive a $100 million severance following consummation of the Viacom/CBS merger while reporting to new corporate CEO Bob Bakish as CEO of CBS, said he calculated the 4% increase by combining traditional pay-TV subs accessing Showtime and All Access as well as standalone direct-to-consumer and online TV subs streaming programming through third-party platforms such as Sling TV and AT&T TV Now.

“We think [the overal sub count] is important because there is a lot of headwind in the traditional [pay-TV] business and our point is, when you factor all of that in, we are [actually] growing subs,” he said. “And so, because obviously, the direct-to-consumer will be growing, but if you are losing [subs] in a traditional business, it’s offsetting.

“So, that’s why we thought that [16 million] statistic was meaningful …  that consumers are seeking out our content on other platforms, which bodes well for our future.”

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In addtion to live sports programming through local affiliates, All Access will begin streaming UEFA Champions League soccer, including UEFA Europa League and newly created UEFA European Conference League, which begins annual play in 2021 featuring eligible European football clubs.

“Soccer fans know these rights represent some of the most prestigious and popular soccer tournaments in the world that we couldn’t be more pleased that we won this hotly contested process,” Ianniello said. “We are currently finalizing contracts for this multi-year deal and we will be releasing more details in the coming weeks.”

CBS Ups All Access, Showtime OTT Revenue 39%

Over-the-top video distribution is beginning to generate real money for CBS. The media company now re-merged with former corporate parent Viacom, Nov. 12 said third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) revenue from OTT ventures CBS All Access and Showtime OTT increased 39% compared to the previous-year period.

Indeed, retransmission compensation, reverse comp and virtual MVPD revenue grew 18%, and total affiliate and subscription fees grew 12%, representing more than a third of CBS’ overall revenue in Q3.

Entertainment revenue increased 4% to $2.29 billion from $2.19 billion last year. The growth was led by affiliate and subscription fee revenue, which were up 22%, driven by increases in station affiliation fees and revenue from online TV, as well as subscriber growth at CBS All Access.

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Content licensing and distribution revenue increased 7%, mainly from higher sales of series produced for third parties. Advertising revenue decreased 5% from the third quarter of 2018, primarily as a result of the timing of the broadcast of sporting events and lower revenue during the CBS’ 19-day carriage dispute with AT&T/DirecTV.

Entertainment operating income declined nearly 22% to $302 million compared with $384 million in the prior-year period. The decrease was driven by an increased investment in content, including a higher number of series produced for multiple platforms, as well as the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming services.

“We are building great momentum as we near our merger with Viacom and head into 2020,” Joe Ianniello, acting CEO, said in a statement.

Viacom reports fiscal results on Nov. 14.

Viacom and CBS Announce Leadership After Pending Merger

CBS and Viacom Nov. 11 announced senior appointments for content and digital leadership of ViacomCBS effective upon closing of the merger.

The combined company’s library will comprise 140,000-plus TV episodes and 3,600-plus film titles, according to a joint press release. ViacomCBS will also have more than 750 series ordered or in production, as well as a major Hollywood film studio, Paramount Pictures. The combined company will have a content spend of more than $13 billion — one of the largest in the industry, according to the joint release.

“ViacomCBS will be one of the largest premium content creators in the world, with the capacity to produce content for both our own platforms and for others,” Bob Bakish, president and CEO, Viacom, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon close, said in a statement. “This talented team of content leaders will work together to ensure we realize the full power of our brands, our deep relationships with the creative community and our intellectual property to drive our growth as a combined company.”

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Content leaders, who will manage the creative and business operations of the company’s brands and help assess how best to distribute programming include:

  • Jim Gianopulos, who will oversee Filmed Entertainment, continuing as chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, a role that includes oversight of Paramount Animation, Paramount Features, Paramount Players and Paramount TV;
  • Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo, who will serve as president of entertainment and youth brands, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks — adding Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel and TV Land brands and their respective content studios to his current portfolio of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo;
  • David Nevins, chief creative officer, CBS, and chairman and CEO, Showtime Networks, who will oversee CBS Television Studios, the CBS Television Network’s Entertainment division, the Showtime Networks and Pop, as well as the programming of CBS All Access (He will also have oversight of CBS’ interest in The CW, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment. In addition, Nevins will oversee BET, which will continue to be led by Scott Mills as President of BET);
  • Carolyn Kroll Reidy, who will lead the company’s publishing assets, continuing in her role as president and CEO of Simon & Schuster; and
  • Brian Robbins, president of Nickelodeon, who will oversee the company’s kids and young adult-focused offerings as president, kids and family entertainment, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks (In addition to Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons and Nickelodeon Studios, he will now oversee Awesomeness, which he co-founded and was acquired by Viacom in 2018).

 

Joe Ianniello, as previously announced, will serve as chairman and CEO of CBS, overseeing CBS-branded assets such as the CBS Television Network (including CBS Entertainment, CBS News, and CBS Sports), CBS Television Studios, CBS Interactive (including CBS All Access) and CBS Television Stations.

ViacomCBS will also form a new Content Council, comprising the content leaders across the company and chaired by Nevins, to ensure these leaders and other senior executives are working together to maximize the use of IP and talent relationships across the combined company.

ViacomCBS’ portfolio of streaming assets will include CBS All Access and Showtime, which deliver premium, branded content live and on demand to millions of subscribers; Pluto TV, the leading free, advertising-supported streaming TV service in the United States; and targeted niche products such as BET+, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, ET Live and Noggin.

“Our content scale will support our streaming strategy, which will build on the rapidly scaling advertising and subscription-based products we already have in the market,” Bakish said in a statement. “The executives we announced today bring complementary and deep experience in both subscription and ad-supported streaming businesses, and will work together to create a differentiated streaming ecosystem in the market.”

ViacomCBS digital leaders include:

  • Marc DeBevoise, president and COO, CBS Interactive, who will serve as chief digital Officer, ViacomCBS, and president and CEO, CBS Interactive, providing overall leadership for the combined company’s technology and digital operations across its broad range of digital assets, including its subscription, live and vertical ad-supported direct-to-consumer streaming services and major internet properties (His team will also be responsible for Viacom Digital Studios as well as its partnerships with technology, digital video and social platforms. In addition, he will continue to lead CBS Interactive and its digital businesses, including those of the CBS Television Network and CNET Media Group and its portfolio of streaming services including CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ and ET Live.);
  • Kelly Day, president, Viacom Digital Studios, who will continue to lead the digital content strategy and initiative to create and expand original programming and branded content across leading and emerging social platforms (In this role, reporting to DeBevoise, she will look to expand this initiative from brands including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET across the combined company’s content portfolio.);
  • Phil Wiser, CTO, CBS, who will serve as CTO for the combined company, reporting to DeBevoise, and will be responsible for the global technology strategy, shared services, operations and transformation for ViacomCBS; and
  • Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, who will continue to lead Pluto TV and will oversee all facets of the company’s business;

 

The merger is expected to close by early December, according to the press release.

‘Stranger Things’ Spends 17th Week Atop Parrot Analytics’ TV Demand Charts

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” remained No. 1 on not only Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Oct. 19, but also the data firm’s overall list of TV series from any platform, including broadcast and cable, for the 17th straight week.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

For the week, “Stranger Things” registered 84.9 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was down 9.2% in expressions compared with the previous week.

DC Universe’s “Titans” held onto the No. 2 spot on the digital originals chart, with expressions up 0.68% to 52.5 million. The show is in the midst of its second season.

Staying at No. 3 on the digital originals chart was Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” with expressions up 18% to 39.6 million.

Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” rose to No. 4, though expressions dropped 8.3% to 28.1 million.

Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” dropped a spot to No. 5, with expressions down 13.2% to 27.8 million.

Making a big rise to No. 9, from No. 25 the previous week, was “Letterkenny,” a Canadian comedy that had its seventh season premiere on Hulu. Its demand expressions were up 43.6% to 24.1 million for the week, from 16.8 million the previous week.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

‘Stranger Things’ Spends 16th Week Atop Parrot Analytics’ TV Demand Charts

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” remained No. 1 on not only Parrot Analytics’ digital originals rankings the week ended Oct. 12, but also the data firm’s overall list of TV series from any platform, including broadcast and cable, for the 16th straight week.

A “digital original” is a multi-episode series in which the most recent season was first made available on a streaming platform such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

For the week, “Stranger Things” registered 93.4 million average daily Demand Expressions, the proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. That was down 20% in expressions compared with the previous week.

The show has done a number of things to stay in the spotlight since the July premiere of its third season, from extensive merchandising to Netflix signing its creators and some of its stars to new development deals.  Oct. 12 cast member David Harbour even hosted “Saturday Night Live,” which placed third on Parrot’s demand expressions rankings for all TV shows.

DC Universe’s “Titans” held onto the No. 2 spot on the digital originals chart, with expressions up 0.72% to 52.2 million. The show is in the midst of its second season.

Jumping up to No. 3 on the digital originals chart was Netflix’s “Big Mouth,” up from No. 26 the previous week. It doubled expressions to 16.8 million to 33.6 million after the Oct. 4 release of its third season.

Netflix’s “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” dropped a spot to No. 4, with expressions down 5% to 32 million.

Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” slipped to No. 5, though expressions rose 0.5% to 30.7 million.

CBS All Access’ “Star Trek: Discovery” returned to the top 10, hitting No. 9 from No. 17 the previous week. Its demand expressions were up 17.3% to 23 million after a trailer for its third season debuted at New York Comic Con.

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The Demand Expressions metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States, based on the firm’s  proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

Amazon Tops Netflix as Top SVOD Buyer of European Movies

New data from the European Audiovisual Observatory finds that Amazon Prime Video is the largest streaming video buyer of European movies.

Established by the Council of Europe in 1992, the EAO found that 16 North American, three Chinese and one Russian streaming services have the largest catalogs of European-produced movies.

Amazon topped Netflix with 3,281 unique European-produced titles, followed by Netflix with 1,816 unique titles. Russian streaming service Ivi and the Chinese services Youku, iQiyi, Tencent Video were the biggest single country services acquiring European films.

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Indian service Eros Now, Canadian service Sundance Now, Viu and CBS All Access carry from three to 31 unique EU film titles in their catalogs.

 

The report focused on a sample of 79 non-European SVOD services and their catalogs in 21 countries across the globe.

The majority of EU films found on SVOD services around the world are produced in five countries.

The United Kingdom is the biggest supplier of EU films with 38% of all unique EU titles, followed by France with 18%, Germany with 12%, Italy with 11% and Spain with 6%.

Together, these countries account for 85% of all unique EU film titles available on SVOD outside of Europe.

The report also found that medium-size, film-producing countries contribute significantly to SVOD services.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Ireland export films outside of Europe. These seven countries account for 11% of all unique film titles found in the SVOD catalogs.

“With 7,450 unique film titles, EU film titles represent 14% of film titles on offer in the 79 SVOD catalogs studied,” Christian Grece, on-demand audiovisual markets analyst, wrote in the report.

 

CBS, Viacom Re-Merger Nearly Complete; CBS Eyeing Higher Price Point for International ‘All Access’ Rollout

As expected, the Viacom and CBS re-merger could reportedly be announced as early as next week, pending last-minute stock exchange issues.

Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino Aug. 9 on Twitter said the deal reuniting CBS with parent Viacom after a 13-year split is in the hands of the companies’ respective boards.

Viacom and CBS are majority owned by family-owned National Amusements, which is operated by Shari Redstone on behalf of her ailing 96-year-old father, Sumner Redstone.

Shari Redstone has pushed for the merger, claiming media consolidation is a perquisite for navigating the rapidly changing media landscape and over-the-top video distribution. She also wants Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to lead the combined companies.

Redstone’s strategy was initially rebuffed by former CBS CEO Les Moonves, who wanted the top job. With Moonves out following #MeToo issues, consummation of the merger seemed a formality.

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Separately, CBS says it will have 25 million combined CBS All Access/Showtime OTT subscribers by 2022.

To get there the media giant is rolling out All Access internationally in attempt to borrow a page from Netflix’s subscriber growth playbook.

All Access, like Hulu, is available with limited ads for $5.99 monthly, or ad-free for $9.99 ($11.99 for Hulu).

Speaking on the Aug. 8 fiscal call, acting CEO Joe Ianniello said the company would target Latin America and Europe with the more expensive $9.99 price point.

“Two-thirds of the All Access subs are taking the limited commercial option,” he said. “So obviously, the vast majority of that is the $9.99 price point.”

Ianniello contends there is strong demand for premium content delivered via broadband in the international marketplace.

“I just look at the number of people in the consumption of Netflix,” he said. “I’m very encouraged that this is single-handedly the largest opportunity that we have in front of us.”

Ianniello said CBS targets international distribution of proprietary content on franchise-per-franchise basis. Characterizing the U.S. market as “limited” to 325 million people, the executive contends a global audience in the billions satisfies long-term fiscal goals.

“Our thought is if [international is] willing to pay us [$9.99], we’re going to look at that hard,” Ianniello said. “But if they’re not, we’re going to put it through our own [domestic] infrastructure.”

With Disney announcing it would bundle pending SVOD service Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu, Ianniello said CBS is content limiting its OTT bundling to All Access and Showtime.

“I can understand why others want to kind of do that together because people will subscribe for different reasons,” he said.

With All Access nearly five years old, Ianniello says the company understands its appeal and marketing with Showtime.

“It’s an opportunity we don’t force consumers to do it,” he said. “They can buy part; if they want to buy them together, we obviously discount that. We think again those are different offerings and complementary as well.”

CBS All Access Adding Children’s Programming

CBS All Access, the media giant’s online TV service and VOD platform, Aug. 8 disclosed it plans for the first time to add children’s programming, including original series and more than 1,000 catalog episodes.

The $5.99 monthly platform has teamed up with DHX Media and Boat Rocker Studios to license new seasons of “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” produced with Sony Pictures Animation, and Boat Rocker’s “Danger Mouse,” produced with BBC Children’s Productions.

Catalog programming includes the original “Danger Mouse” series, “Inspector Gadget,” “The Adventures of Paddington Bear, “Madeline,” and “Heathcliff,” among others.

“Based on the age and demographics of our subscriber base, with an average age of 44, we see a significant opportunity to invest in children’s programming and provide even more value for subscribers,” Marc DeBevoise, COO, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, CBS All Access announced it would add documentary and unscripted content, in addition to a growing roster of flagship series such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” “The Good Fight,” and “The Twilight Zone.”

Joe Ianniello, acting CEO at parent CBS Corp., said the direct-to-consumer services, which includes Showtime OTT, helped fuel a 13% increase in affiliate and subscription fee revenue in the quarter.

“We remain on track to reach our goal of 25 million subscribers [CBS All Access/Showtime] combined by 2022,” he said in a statement.

Indeed, content licensing and distribution revenue in the quarter increased 18%, mainly from growth in domestic licensing and higher sales of series produced for third-party services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Affiliate and subscription fee revenue grew 22%, driven by increases in station affiliation fees and revenues from online TV, as well as subscriber growth at CBS All Access.

Season 2 of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Beams to DVD and Blu-ray Nov. 12

Paramount Home Entertainment and CBS Home Entertainment will release Star Trek: Discovery — Season Two on Blu-ray and DVD Nov. 12.

The four-disc set will include all 14 episodes of the second season of the CBS All Access original series, plus more than two hours of bonus material.

The season finds the U.S.S. Discovery joining forces with Capt. Pike (Anson Mount) of the U.S.S. Enterprise on a mission to investigate seven mysterious signals across the galaxy apparently created by the mysterious Red Angel, a being associated with the disappearance of Spock (Ethan Peck), the adopted brother of Commander Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The cast also includes Doug Jones, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Wilson Cruz, Mary Chieffo, Tig Notaro, Rebecca Romijn and Michelle Yeoh. 

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The Blu-ray and DVD will also include two “Short Treks” episodes related to the season: “Runaway” and “The Brightest Star.”

Other extras include deleted scenes, a gag reel and commentaries on the episodes “Brother,” “New Eden,” “Through the Valley of Shadows” and “Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2.” 

Featurettes offered on the discs include:

  • “Enter the Enterprise” — a look at re-created the iconic “Star Trek” starship;
  • “Putting it Together” — about the creation of the season finale;
  • “The Red Angel” — a behind-the-scenes look at one of the the season’s major plot elements;
  • “Designing Discovery: Season Two” — a look at the locations and spaces created for the second season;
  • “Prop Me Up: Season Two” — propmaster Mario Moreira shows off the show’s props.
  • “Dress for Success: Season Two” — a look at the costume design;
  • “Creature Comforts: Season Two” — producers, craftsmen and actors discuss the design process, the implementation and the performance required to bring characters to life. Includes a discussion with makeup artist James McKinnon;
  • “Creating Space” — showing off the visual effects process;
  • “Star Trek: Discovery — The Voyage of Season Two” — a recap of the season.

 

Internationally, the Blu-ray and DVD sets will be released Nov. 18 in the U.K., Nov. 19 in Italy, Nov. 21 in Germany, Nov. 22 in Spain, Nov. 25 in the Nordics, Nov. 27 in Benelux, Nov. 28 in Denmark and Dec. 4 in France. Japan and Australia release dates are pending.