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.

Comcast CEO: Coronavirus Could Accelerate Home Entertainment Viewing; Says Company Has Insurance Should Tokyo Olympics Not Happen

With increased concerns about public venues in light of the growing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Comcast Corp. CEO Brian Roberts March 3 told an investor group the situation could actually be a plus for NBCUniversal and its pending Peacock streaming video platform — which launches April 15.

“With 70% of our company being cable and broadband, and that consumption taking place in the home, we’re in a very good set of businesses that actually can see more improvement in our digital service and using your device to transact with our company. It could actually accelerate trends that we’re already having,” Roberts told the Morgan Stanley Investor Conference in San Francisco. “So our base businesses probably are at the moment kind of unaffected. If anything, people appreciate the value of our product even more.”

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Brian Roberts

Indeed, Comcast, in addition to its legacy cable pay-TV business, also operates the Xfinity Store, one of the largest digital movie/TV show retail platforms in home entertainment.

At the same time, Comcast, like Disney, is in the amusement park business. The coronavirus has already shuttered Universal Studios Japan for two weeks and halted — until now — construction and 13,000 workers at a Universal theme park being built in Beijing, China.

“Our China team believes we will open the park on time despite the disruption that occurred,” Roberts said.

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He said the park situation could pose a drag (7% to 9%) on quarterly earnings, including 2% of pre-tax earnings. How that could impact the Tokyo Summer Olympics remains to be seen. NBC has the exclusive U.S. broadcast and streaming rights to the Games through 2032.

Roberts said Tokyo organizers have told him the quadrennial event is “full steam ahead”. That reassurance comes as Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently ordered all schools in the country closed until April due to the virus. There are more than 200 reported COVID-19 cases in Japan.

To date, there are 91,300 people who have contracted the disease, and at least 3,110 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“There should be no [fiscal] losses should there not be an Olympics,” Roberts said. “There just wouldn’t be a profit this year.”