Paramount+ Aims to Reverse the CBS Age Demo

NEWS ANALYSIS — When CBS All Access morphs into Paramount+ on March 4, Bob Bakish, CEO of corporate parent ViacomCBS, is hoping to reverse the CBS brand’s aging process by 20 years. The network has long coveted older viewers (55+) as a means of generating strong Nielsen ratings and advertisers. But in the over-the-top video ecosystem, age is not a friend or desired demo. Millennials, not 60-and-older television viewers, stream video in large percentages.

As a result, in addition to appealing to older sports viewers with mainstays such as the NFL and the PGA Tour, Paramount+ is betting big on NCAA sports and UEFA European professional soccer — the latter exclusive to the U.S. market and popular with younger male viewers. Paramount Pictures is also producing sequels to Flashdance, The Italian Job, Love Story and Grease, among other classic movies, to keep the nostalgia going.

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If you look at CBS All Access, it is [skewing] about 20 years younger, so materially younger audience on the same schedule of programming,” Bakish told Fox Business Network’s “Barron’s Roundtable.”

To capture as wide a streaming demo as possible, Paramount+ will incorporate programming from across the ViacomCBS portfolio, including MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET, also the Smithsonian brand in the documentary space. The $4.99 and $9.99 (ad-free) platform features 30,000 episodes of library product across all brands, plus a slate of 36 original series for 2021 — increasing to 50 in 2022.

Interestingly, catalog episodes of “Criminal Minds” on Netflix ranked No. 1 recently by Nielsen. Paramount+ will stream all seasons of the long-running series, in addition to new spin-offs of the franchise.

Separately, the streamer will have the entire Nickelodeon catalog, including all the “SpongeBob SquarePants” episodes, plus the new “SpongeBob” movie as well as “Kamp Koral,” the first SpongeBob franchise spinoff.

The platform is also going deep with reality TV, including a new version of MTV’s “The Challenge,” “Big Brother” and “Love Island.”

“We’re adding a lot of content, both original and library,” Bakish said. “It appeals really across demographics, and that’s going to make Paramount+ a much broader service than the All Access it’s replacing, including appealing to a much wider demographic.”

 

Paramount+ to Cost Less Than CBS All Access

An ad-supported version of Paramount+ will launch in June at a monthly subscription rate of $4.99 — $1 cheaper than the existing CBS All Access plan with limited ads.

Tom Ryan, CEO of ViacomCBS Streaming

ViacomCBS is rebooting the CBS All Access subscription streaming service to Paramount+ on March 4 at $9.99 for the ad-free plan, which also features more exclusive content.

The pricing was disclosed Feb. 24 during ViacomCBS’s marathon special investor event by Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan, who is now CEO of VIacomCBS Streaming.

CBS All Access and Showtime OTT ended 2020 with 19.2 million combined U.S. subscribers — up from 11 million at the end of 2019.

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ViacomCBS: CBS All Access, Showtime OTT Combined U.S. Subs Top 19.2 Million

Just days before CBS All Access morphs into the Paramount+ subscription streaming service in early March, corporate parent ViacomCBS Feb. 24 said combined U.S. subscriptions to All Access and Showtime OTT reached 19.2 million at the end of the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2020. That compares with 11 million combined subs at the end of 2019.

ViacomCBS said All Access momentum was driven by demand for sports content, including the NFL, UEFA and SEC, as well as original programming, including “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Stand,” and content from ViacomCBS cable brands. Showtime OTT benefited from strong demand for original programming, including the
premieres of “Shameless” and the limited series “Your Honor,” as well as theatricals.

All Access, which becomes Paramount+ on March 4, costs $5.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without. Showtime OTT, which is not joining Paramount+, costs $9.99 monthly. Paramount+ is available for a 50% discount through March 2  if consumers buy a year-long subscription  with a special code: PARAMOUNTPLUS.

In the quarter and fiscal year, global streaming subscribers grew to nearly 30 million, with ad-supported VOD platform Pluto TV’s global monthly average users up to 43 million. Domestic streaming subs rose 71% year-over-year, and Pluto TV domestic monthly average users increased to 30.1 million.

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“Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we finished the year with strong advertising and affiliate results that demonstrate the strength of our core businesses and achieved incredible growth across our linked streaming ecosystem,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

HBO Max Panelist: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Broke All Records

The Christmas day release of Wonder Woman 1984 was a boon for the HBO Max subscription streaming service, according to WarnerMedia’s Sarah Lyons, EVP of direct-to-consumer global product management for HBO Max.

Wonder Woman 1984 broke all records that we had internally from both a projection and a prior-viewing standpoint,” Lyons said on a Feb. 8 virtual panel during Digital Entertainment World. “We feel that that momentum is only going to continue.”

WarnerMedia’s strategy to release first-run movies, such as Wonder Woman 1984, directly onto its streaming service concurrently with a theatrical release is designed to give consumers choice, she said.

“With this slate of films, there are some consumers that still want to go out to the theater and enjoy it in the theater and have that great theatrical experience that we all know and love, and then there are other consumers that are stuck at home, and so we want to give our customers the ability to have a choice whether to view it at home on HBO Max or to go out to the theaters, and that strategy so far has resonated very well,” she said.

HBO Max will continue to grow subscribers, she said.

“We absolutely see the momentum as sustainable,” she said. “We grew more subs in 2020 with HBO Max than HBO did over all of the last 10 years. So that momentum is huge, and our subscribers are highly engaged.”

HBO Max’s mix of HBO, Warner Bros. and other content widens its appeal.

“We’ve expanded our target demographics beyond what just HBO just offered,” she said. “HBO typically caters to and had a base that was largely older and male dominated. The idea with HBO Max is that we add on content that is attractive to families with kids, to Gen Z, the millennials, kids … . Serving the needs of the entire family is really important to us.”

There is room for more than one player in the streaming market, she said. “We think consumers from our research will subscribe to between three and four platforms,” Lyons said.

Fresh off Super Bowl ads that touted the upcoming March 4 launch of Paramount+, which will incorporate the existing CBS All Access service, Rob Gelick, ViacomCBS EVP and GM of streaming services and chief product officer, said there’s a lot of room for new services, especially those that can differentiate.

“You see all of the IP coming together from the other big entrants, and I think that’s going to challenge who the big three really are, in addition to the fact that you’re going to just see a broader swath of adopted services per household,” he said.

That includes the pending Paramount+.

“We combine the best in live sports and breaking news and that mountain of entertainment,” he said, alluding to the Paramount mountain used in the commercials to symbolize the service’s entertainment heft.

“Users are going for destination television,” he said. “Even this past year as we added more and more original, exclusive series we saw 100% growth in subscribers streaming originals, almost nearly that in time spent, and that’s because we’re dropping big marquee franchises, like a whole number of series from the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, including ‘Discovery.’ This week is the final for another original, ‘Stephen King’s The Stand.’ We’ve announced for March 4 a ton of great kids programming, including ‘Kamp Koral,’ which is a new series in the ‘SpongeBob’ franchise.”

Streaming is most definitely the future, accelerated by the pandemic, said Joanne Waage, GM of the Crunchyroll service.

“We are seeing finally that big shift from cable to the streaming services,” she said. “I think what’s going to be interesting is how quickly cable tanks at this point. It’s already been declining significantly. At this stage, do you really need both?”

Niche players such as Crunchyroll, which specializes in anime and adult animation, have to constantly innovate to attract viewers, she said. The service, an AVOD to SVOD model, recently announced it has 100 million registered users and 4 million paying subscribers.

“Certainly, we are one of the very successful niche models,” Waage said. “The role of services like ours, a lot of it is to push the boundaries of the mediums that we are in. We win by catering to the passions of our audience and really delivering a depth of experience. That’s our goal.”

But Crunchyroll sees itself having a bigger role.

“We get categorized as niche,” she said. “I would say we are sort of breaking out of that as we look at our future. We see ourselves as the next DC or Marvel or Disney, in that we are pushing this type of medium to the next generation of fans and that’s really adult animation, bigger than anime, and there’s no bounds to that. So that becomes not niche.

“Netflix is nipping at our heels and HBO Max … and so we have to just continue to innovate.”

Helping consumers discover content to watch and personalizing content for subscribers is key, said panelists.

“We put just as much stake in our consumer experience, in our product experience, as we do the content,” Lyons said of HBO Max. “We know consumers when they make a decision about a streaming service, there’s so much great content out there that the experience is just as much a part of their decision. How they interact with that app, how they find content, making it easy to discover, personalizing that experience, tailoring it to them is of utmost importance to stand out in the marketplace.”

Gelick agreed  that it’s important to see that “the right people are discovering [content] at the right time” and make sure customers don’t leave when they finish a piece of content.

“One of the biggest things for us is that post-completion experience … . You come to the last episode that’s available. How do you keep people engaged? What you surface in that moment I would see as an art,” he said.

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Data as well as a human touch is the way to curate, Lyons said.

“We actually believe in a blend,” Lyons said. “Human curation is really important for us because we feel like we’re a service with a point of view. We’re just as passionate fans behind this app as any other fans out there. We use these services, too. And so we want to bring an element of that hand touch, human curated content that is relevant of the zeitgeist, that has a point of view, and then we blend that with underlying data to personalize those curations.… That’s where the sweet spot is, and that’s where we think we can create a great experience for our customers.”

ViacomCBS streaming services use data to identify groups of similar customers to serve them better.

“We have a way to break out what I would call viewing cohorts into really small actionable groups,” Gelick said. “As you start hitting scale, personalization at its core is so critically important, and so I think everybody has their own flavor of this.”

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In addition to data and human curation, Waage emphasized the importance of generating old-fashioned word of mouth through social media.

“I think data is amazing and curation through technology is amazing … but ultimately you might be presented the best show for you, and if you’ve not heard of it, you’re probably not going to watch it,” she noted.

Thus, finding a way to generate buzz is key.

“They’re going to hear about it through friends, and so social is incredibly important,” she said, adding, “There is a feeling that there is a real person on the other side of it saying you should check this out.”

Crunchyroll will often use social media to reignite interest in a title.

“If there’s a slow period, we will go on social and reinvigorate shows that have maybe been sleeping for awhile,” she said.

Sang Kim, SVP of product at Samsung Electronics, said the company has a bird’s eye view of consumer usage of services because they are part of the smart TV system. Partners can get insights into how to target their content from that data.

“With the data that we collect for example on TV you can find your specific audiences of sports lovers or drama or whatnot,” he said. “We have made this data accessible for our partners to use and find their audiences so it’s a very robust data set.”

“We do not provide the raw data outside of their own specific services, but we’ll democratize that and roll it up to high levels so you can find your audiences.”

Samsung has seen huge growth in AVOD, he said.

Citing research that shows AVOD in a quarter of U.S. broadband houses, Gelick noted that AVOD service Pluto TV is part of the ViacomCBS family.

“I run product for that group as well,” he said. “I think AVOD and where we see the SVOD business as going is a much, much more tightly aligned strategy.”

That strategy involves using the AVOD experience to move customers into SVOD or “using that as a top of the funnel driver for premium subscription streaming.”

HBO Max, too, is planning an AVOD product.

“We have announced that we are launching an ad supported option later this year,” Lyons said.

It’s designed “to have a cheaper price point for consumers so that you can reach a broader audience that may not be able to afford a premium service, and you have something for everyone,” she said.

Super Bowl a Streaming Hit, While Regular TV Viewership Plummets to 16-Year Low

Super Bowl LV was a hit on streaming video, with a record 5.7 million viewers per minute, up 69% from 3.4 million in Super Bowl LIV.

When combining all platforms, including CBS All Access, streaming on Verizon, NFL Digital Properties and ESPN Deportes TV and digital properties, the game drew 96.4 million multiplatform viewers, the lowest since 2007.

CBS used the game as a promotional boost for new detective series “The Equalizer,” starring Queen Latifah. The series generated 20.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched non-sports TV show of the year. That was still down 14% from the 23.7 million who watched “The Masked Singer” last year on Fox.

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But on regular TV, it was a different story. The NFL had its marquee player Tom Brady competing for a record seventh Super Bowl win. But, despite the hype and Brady guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 victory over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs, the telecast was a bust for those keeping ratings score.

About 90.5 million people watched the game on CBS — the lowest broadcast rating since 2005. Last year’s Super Bowl LIV on Fox Sports generated 100 million network viewers. Despite the drop-off, the Super Bowl remains the most-watched television show of the year.

ViacomCBS Eyes Super Bowl LV as Major Paramount+ Marketing Tool

Ahead of Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, in Tampa Bay, Fla., ViacomCBS is expanding the big game’s streaming reach across its digital properties. While the game will be broadcast on CBS Sports, it will also be available on CBSSports.com, CBS Sports app, in addition to Yahoo Sports, and ESPN digital properties.

The game, which will feature the first-ever female official (Down Judge Sarah Thomas), will also be live-streamed on CBS All Access, the SVOD platform that is rebranding to Paramount+ on March 4. As such, expect to see multiple tie-ins across ViacomCBS properties marketing the pending change, including AVOD platform Pluto TV.

Separate data from digital marketing agency Adtaxi found that 68% of survey respondents said they would forgo attending a Super Bowl party to watch the game at home alone.

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Last year’s Super Bowl LIV contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers saw 3.4 million people live-stream the game per minute, which was 30% more than the 2.6 million per minute who live-streamed Super Bowl LIII in 2019; and 103% more than the 1.7 million per minute who live-streamed Super Bowl LI in 2017.

“We’re excited to broaden the availability of our Super Bowl LV stream this year, and we look forward to building on the incredibly strong momentum NFL football is driving on CBS All Access as a cornerstone of the extensive live sports offerings available on the service,” Jeff Gerttula, EVP and GM, CBS Sports Digital, said in a statement.

Regardless, the Super Bowl remains a broadcast TV mainstay. The annual broadcast remains the single-day highest rated TV program with more than 100 million people tuning in.

CBS All Access Expands Kids Programming

SVOD platform CBS All Access Dec. 9 announced new product features for families and the addition of Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. library programming, of its upcoming rebrand to Paramount+ in 2021.

The new family-friendly features include the ability to create up to six profiles per account and manage each profile using “Kids Mode,” which allows parents to create profiles that limit content to older children or younger children based on content ratings. The service’s existing parental PIN controls’ option for mature content, which locks access to certain content based on its content rating, will also still be available to use across profiles.

“With today’s new product enhancements, like ‘Kids Mode’ and multiple profiles, we can create customized experiences for each member of the household, while giving our subscribers even more opportunities to discover and watch family programming together, and allowing parents additional peace of mind with the ability to further customize what programming is available to their kids,” Rob Gelick, EVP and GM, streaming services and chief product officer, ViacomCBS Streaming, said in a statement.

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In addition, CBS All Access introduced nearly 800 more episodes of children’s programming to the service, including select past seasons of Nick Jr. favorites “Paw Patrol,” “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” “Blue’s Clues,” “Bubble Guppies,” “Dora the Explorer” and “Shimmer and Shine,” among others.

All Access children’s programming is available commercial-free. The new library content being added to the service joins an already robust roster of more than 1,000 episodes of library and original children’s programming, including the service’s previously launched original children’s series, WildBrain’s “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” Boat Rocker’s new “Danger Mouse” and new editions of “Lassie,” “George of the Jungle” and “Mr. Magoo” from DreamWorks Animation’s Classic Media.

Original children’s programming on the service will continue to expand with the first spinoff from one of ViacomCBS’s biggest global franchises, Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” when new series “Kamp Koral” premieres in early 2021. The service will also be the exclusive home to The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, the upcoming feature film that follows “SpongeBob,” his best friend Patrick Star, and the rest of the gang from Bikini Bottom in the first-ever all CGI SpongeBob motion picture event.

ViacomCBS CEO: Monthly Pluto TV Users to Reach 40 Million Globally, 19 Million SVOD Subs by Year’s End

ViacomCBS is ending 2020 with some good news. The company expects 40 million average global monthly users of its ad-supported Pluto TV platform, and 19 million combined SVOD subscribers for CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. The updated numbers were disclosed Dec. 8 by CEO Bob Bakish on the virtual UBS Global Investor event.

“We now see domestic streaming and digital revenue, which does include some ad sales, at an annual run rate in Q4 of $3 billion dollars,” Bakish said, adding that the tally is up from the $2.8 billion projected on the previous fiscal call. “That implies over 50% growth in the [fourth] quarter.”

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish

Bakish said the revenue projection underscores his positivity around streaming video as a major future for the company. ViacomCBS plans to hold an investor event in early 2021 to discuss the company’s streaming strategy, which includes further details on the rollout of the rebooted CBS All Access service as Paramount+.

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“We’ll give an update on our entire streaming ecosystem, which includes Pluto TV and Showtime OTT, and how we’re using the great assets of the company to pursue a global streaming strategy,” Bakish said.

Notably, Bakish said ViacomCBS would look to differentiate content offerings across ad-supported Pluto TV, Paramount+ and Showtime OTT, underscoring the fact the latter service would remain separate from Paramount+ in 2021. Bakish said Pluto would act as a link toward the company’s SVOD channels.

“I think it’s fair to say the world is quickly embracing free streaming, which is why Pluto TV is key to our strategy,” he said, adding that streaming video — driven by an average of more than three services in the average U.S. home — represents a global opportunity for the media company.

“It’s definitely a growing category,” Bakish said.

Indeed, Paramount+ will look to combine live sports, breaking news and a “deep roster” of exclusive originals and content franchises for “every audience,” according to Bakish.

“This is a cross-demographic product,” he said.

Bakish outlined a few original series, including limited series “The Offer,” about the making of The Godfather; new SpongeBob kids series “Camp Coral,” which drops after the debut of movie SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run on Paramount+; and a  new series from “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan.

“There’s no question in my mind that our streaming strategy is working,” Bakish said.

CBS All Access Coming to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 Pay-TV Platform

Comcast Cable Dec. 7 announced that the ViacomCBS subscription streaming video service CBS All Access will be available on the Xfinity X1 platform this week, following the launch of the app on Xfinity Flex earlier this year. Xfinity is the first pay-TV provider to offer CBS’s branded streaming service, which is changing to Paramount+ in 2021. The platform joins Netflix and YouTube as major third-party SVOD services available directly to Xfinity subs.

The partnership is notable considering NBCUniversal operates SVOD competitor Peacock, which launched nationwide this summer.

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X1 subs will be able to All Access’ offering of more than 20,000 episodes and movies from BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, in addition to original series like “Star Trek: Discovery,” with new episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays; the upcoming limited event series “The Stand,” premiering Dec. 17 and based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel; as well as the recently debuted docuseries “Texas 6,” and many more.

All Access also offers live streaming access to major sports, including some of the world’s biggest soccer leagues, along with CBSN for 24/7 news, CBS Sports HQ for sports news and analysis, and ET Live for entertainment coverage. For Flex customers, All Access enables them to stream local CBS-affiliate stations live, including CBS Sports broadcasts.

To launch the app and access the streaming service over the Internet, X1 customers can say “CBS All Access” into the Xfinity Voice Remote. They can also say the title of an All Access Originals or browse All Access programming within collections curated by Xfinity’s team of TV editors, such as “Explore CBS All Access” and “December Premieres.” X1 subs can also find All Access children’s programming, which includes more than 1,000 episodes, including new seasons of “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” “Danger Mouse,” and related series from Nickelodeon. X1 and Flex customers will continue to All Access availability when the service is rebranded as Paramount+ early next year.

‘The Stand’ Top New, ‘Attack on Titan’ Top Returning Shows on TV Time Anticipated Series Charts for December

CBS All Access’s “The Stand” was the most anticipated new show, while “Attack on Titan” was the top anticipated returning show on the TV Time charts for December.

“The Stand,” a limited series based on the Stephen King novel, is a nine-episode production starring Whoopi Goldberg and Alexander Skarsgard. The series chronicles King’s apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of mankind rests on the shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Goldberg) and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg (Skarsgard), the Dark Man.

The fourth and final season of anime series “Attack on Titan” is streaming on various services around the world beginning Dec. 7. The series based on the manga is set in a world where humanity lives within cities surrounded by enormous walls that protect them from gigantic man-eating humanoids referred to as Titans.

Taking the silver on the anticipated new series chart was Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” hitting screens on Christmas. The romance series is produced by Shonda Rhimes and is based on Julia Quinn’s bestsellers about eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family looking for love and happiness in London high society.

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Coming in at No. 2 on the returning shows chart was the adult animation series “Big Mouth,” season four of which debuted Dec. 4. The series follows a group of kids facing the horrors and delights of puberty.

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Most Anticipated New Shows for December:

  1. “The Stand” (CBS All Access) — Dec. 17
  2. “Bridgerton” (Netflix) — Dec. 25
  3. “Your Honor” (Showtime) — Dec. 6
  4. “The Wilds” (Amazon Prime Video) — Dec. 11
  5. “Tiny Pretty Things” (Netflix) — Dec. 14

 

Most Anticipated Returning Shows for December:

  1. “Attack on Titan” — Dec. 7
  2. “Big Mouth” (Netflix) — Dec. 4
  3. “Shameless” (Showtime) — Dec. 6
  4. “Home for Christmas” (Netflix) — Dec. 18
  5. “The Expanse” (Amazon Prime Video) — Dec. 16