Paramount, Comcast Reportedly Discussed Merging Peacock, Paramount+ Streaming Operations

The rollout of the SkyShowtime streaming platform across Europe in 2021 apparently wasn’t the only joint venture for Paramount Global and Comcast. The two media giants reportedly have discussed a separate joint venture partnership linking their respective Paramount+ and Peacock subscription streaming platforms.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported that the talks revolved around combining services that would have tallied almost 95 million domestic subscribers, in addition to multiple cost synergies.

Peacock, with 30 million subs, and Paramount+ with 63 million, lag significantly behind market behemoth Netflix, which ended 2023 with more than 260 million subs worldwide, and more importantly, $5.5 billion in net income. Both Peacock and Paramount+ are not available in most foreign markets, with the exception of Paramount+, which is streaming in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Latin America, the Nordics and Ireland.

The JV scuttlebutt comes as Paramount Global and corporate parent National Amusements entertain separate third-party merger solicitations from SkyDance Media and media entrepreneur Byron Allen.

With media companies under the gun to reign in costs and bring profitability to their direct-to-consumer streaming business units, consolidation is the name of the game — especially as the market embraces live-sports streaming. Peacock spent $110 million for the rights to live-stream the first-ever NFL Wild Card Playoff Game.

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Paramount live-streamed Super Bowl LVIII, in addition to weekly NFL regular season games.

Recently Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery announced they are partnering to launch a co-owned sports streaming app, which would also include Disney+, Hulu, ESPN and Max.

Paramount’s Noggin Subscription Streaming Service Targeting Preschoolers Shutting Down

Paramount Global’s Noggin subscription streaming service targeting preschool-age kids is ceasing operations after 25 years.

The $7.99 monthly service’s staff was laid off as part of Paramount’s previously-announced staff reduction impacting 800 employees companywide.

Noggin, which at one time had 2.5 million streaming subscribers, will transfer its content to the Paramount+ streaming platform under the Nick Jr. banner.

The service was launched Feb. 2, 1999, as a joint venture cable TV show operated by MTV Networks and the Sesame Workshop. The platform re-launched as a mobile streaming service on March 5, 2015.

From 2020, Noggin expanded beyond legacy children’s programming such as “Blues Clues” and “Dora the Explorer,” to include fitness and cooking content for parents, and later, the educational series “Noggin Knows,” which featured teal-colored mascots knowns as Noggins.

Paramount reports fourth-quarter fiscal results on Feb. 28.

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Paramount Global Laying Off 800 Workers

Paramount Global is laying off 800 employees, or roughly 3% of its workforce, according to reports.

CEO Bob Bakish

CEO Bob Bakish reportedly informed workers of the layoffs, taking place Tuesday, Feb.13, in an internal memo.

“These adjustments will help enable us to build on our momentum and execute our strategic vision for the year ahead — and I firmly believe we have much to be excited about,” he wrote.

Paramount Global, which releases fourth-quarter, and year end fiscal results on Feb. 28, has, like a lot of media companies, been looking inward at reducing operating costs, including initiating companywide layoffs.

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The company has also attracted purchase interest. Media executive Byron Allen has made a $30 billion offer to acquire Paramount Global, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, CBS Corp., and the Paramount+ subscription streaming service. The offer includes $14.3 billion for Paramount Global’s movie, TV and streaming assets, in addition to assuming the company’s debt.

Media Executive Byron Allen Makes $30 Billion Offer for Paramount Global

Media executive Byron Allen has made a $30 billion offer to acquire Paramount Global, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, CBS Corp., and the Paramount+ subscription streaming service.

The offer, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, includes $14.3 billion for Paramount Global’s movie, TV and streaming assets, in addition to assuming the company’s debt.

Byron Allen (Shutterstock image)

“Mr. Byron Allen did submit a bid on behalf of Allen Media Group and its strategic partners to purchase all of Paramount Global’s outstanding shares,” Allen Media Group said in a media statement. “We believe this $30 billion offer, which includes debt and equity, is the best solution for all of the Paramount Global shareholders, and the bid should be taken seriously and pursued.”

Allen, who owns The Weather Channel and last year attempted to acquire Paramount’s BET network, is among the first direct bids for Paramount Global after parent National Amusements, the private media company headed by Shari Redstone, was reportedly looking to sell a controlling stake in the company.

It’s a strategy recently employed by AT&T, which spun off operational control and minority ownership of the the former WarnerMedia to Discovery and its CEO David Zaslav. The company was renamed Warner Bros. Discovery.

Paramount Global, which releases fourth-quarter, and year end fiscal results on Feb. 28, has, like a lot of media companies, been looking inward at reducing operating costs, including initiating companywide layoffs.

CEO Bob Bakish, in a staff memo last week, reiterated that the company’s 2024 goals included profitability at the direct-to-consumer (streaming) business, pursuing content with the maximal impact on consumers across all distribution platforms, and operating as a combined company rather than independent business silos.

Bakish ackowledged to third party merger and acquisition (M&A) interest in Paramount Global without elaborating.

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“It’s no surprise that Paramount remains a topic of speculation,” he wrote. “We’re a storied public company in a closely followed industry. But I have always believed the best thing we can do is concentrate on what we can control — execution.”

After releasing five No. 1 theatrical debuts in 2022, led by Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick — the top-grossing movie of the year — Paramount in 2023 managed just two movies in the Top 20, led by Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One at No. 13 and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts at No. 15.

Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global Reportedly Discuss Merger Options

The CEOs of Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global reportedly met Dec. 19 in New York about a possible merger between the two legacy media companies.

The meeting, according to Axios, which cited numerous sources, revolved around how the two companies might meld operations, which include studios Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, CNN, CBS, HBO, HGTV, and streaming platforms Max and Paramount+, among other assets.

Paramount Global, which is majority owned by National Amusements and its president Shari Redstone, has been reportedly exploring options to help reduce its corporate debt, in addition to Paramount debt. Paramount’s market valuation hovers around $10 billion through Dec. 20, while Warner Bros. Discovery is valued at $29 billion. By comparison, Netflix has a market valuation of $220.6 billion.

While the report said the discussions were preliminary, with no suggestion about a possible deal, a merger of the two legacy companies — led by WBD CEO David Zaslav and Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish — would reverberate through Hollywood.

Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount had the No. 1 theatrical box office hits in 2023 and 2022 with Barbie ($1.44 billion) and Top Gun: Maverick ($1.49 billion), respectively.

WBD’s Max and Paramount+ subscription streaming video platforms ended the most-recent fiscal period with 95 million subscribers and 63 million subs, respectively.

Paramount CEO Bakish: Charter, Disney Dispute Underscores Need to ‘Modernize’ Pay-TV Deals

With the carriage dispute between Disney and cable TV operator Charter/Spectrum now in its second week, the standoff over the growing fiscal impact direct-to-consumer video distribution has on legacy pay-TV underscores the need to rethink standard business agreements, according to Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global.

Speaking at last week’s Goldman Sachs investor event in San Francisco, Bakish was asked about the dispute, which has elevated beyond the usual public carriage rights negotiations. Charter has blasted Disney’s attempts to increase its fees while it also transitions its distribution beyond pay-TV to branded streaming platforms.

Charter in 2023 is slated to pay Disney $2.2 billion in carriage fees, according to CEO Chris Winfrey, who says that without a better deal, the cabler will not carry Disney content, which includes ESPN.

Bakish said the impasse was inevitable and underscores the need to modernize carriage agreements in the age of DTC.

“Frankly, it wasn’t a surprise; the exact timing was, but it was inevitable that something like this would happen,” Bakish said.

The executive said Paramount management’s strategy has evolved over the years to include co-marketing agreements with pay-TV operators and online TV platforms in the United States for Paramount + Showtime.

“So, [pay-TV] very much ha[s] an interest in the broadband side of our business, video distribution, as well as the linear side of the business,” Bakish said, adding that outside the United States, Paramount+ is carried by Comcast-owned satellite TV operator Sky, in addition to the SkyShowtime service.

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“When we look at skinny bundles, and Charter Spectrum Essentials is an example of a skinny bundle, we are in that too,” he said.

Bakish said Paramount “fundamentally” believes in multi-platform content distribution, which he contends includes embracing the linear ecosystem and the streaming ecosystem.

“We’re focused on providing our partners solutions as consumer behavior continues to migrate.,” he said. “So yes, inevitably you have to modernize these relationships. You have to do things like again, streaming co-marketing partnerships.

“We’re very pleased by the way with the financial expression of Paramount+ with Showtime on a multi platform basis. And frankly, I think we’re ahead of the curve.”

CEO Bakish Eyeing Price Hike for Paramount+ With Showtime

When the hybrid streaming service Paramount+ with Showtime launched on June 27, it included a 20% monthly price hike to $11.99 from $9.99.  Now, that price point is set to increase again, possibly as early as 2024, according to Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global.

Speaking Sept. 6 at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia & Technology Conference Conference in San Francisco, Bakish said the initial price increase saw little subscriber churn, suggesting a consumer market willing to spend more to stream premium Paramount content, including box office hits.

Paid subscribers is the quickest way to achieving operating income in the direct-to-consumer market. Paramount+  added 700,000 subscribers in the most-recent fiscal quarter, to end the period with 61 million. Bakish thinks the platform can add more subs paying a higher fee, helping the company achieve a 20% increase in ARPU (average revenue per user) in 2024.

“We’re early days … about a month of actual data …[but]… our plan is to raise the price again. We have pricing power in the marketplace. This isn’t our only price increase,” Bakish said. “Whether we do that in ’25, or we do that in ’24, we’ll see. We believe we have a lot of room to run there.”

To help grow subscriptions, Bakish said European launches of Paramount+ in the United Kingdoma and France were done in cooperation with existing distributors, which resulted in lower subscriber acquisition costs. In France, Paramount+ worked with Canal+ to help facilitate better consumer awareness and traction.

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Indeed, the rollout of Paramount+ with existing platforms in the United Kingdom and France helped reduce the need for as much local marketing, content spending and platform spending, according to Bakish, who said the strategy also drives a mutually beneficial relationship with a local streaming player.

“We learned that we were right on the value of partnerships, and what we’ve probably also learned is that we have the opportunity to lean more in that direction,” he said. “There’s more road to run there.”

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish to be Honored as MIPCOM Cannes ‘Personality of the Year’

MIPCOM Cannes Aug. 21 announced that Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global, will be honored on Oct. 17 with the international entertainment trade show’s “Personality of the Year” award. The 39th edition of MIPCOM Cannes takes place in the Grand Auditorium of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes Oct. 16 – 19.

Bakish will be feted for his leadership and creative contribution to the entertainment industry. The executive is expected to will share from the stage insights from his career and discuss his approach to evolving Paramount at a time of dramatic change across the media landscape.

Past “Personality of the Year” award winners include Bob Greenblatt, Issa Rae, David Zaslav, Shonda Rhimes, Dana Walden & Gary Newman, Simon Cowell and Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Bakish, who has led Paramount Global since 2019, oversees a portfolio of multiplatform consumer brands, including flagship streaming services Paramount+ and Pluto TV; the Paramount Pictures movie studio; and television networks CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Channel 5 in the U.K., Network 10 in Australia and Telefe in Argentina, among other properties that together serve audiences in more than 180 countries.

Prior to the merger, Bakish was President/CEO of Viacom since 2016, spearheading the revitalization of the company and returning it to growth across multiplatform content, distribution and advertising. Bakish previously headed Viacom’s international division as President/CEO of Viacom International Media Networks since 2007. Bakish joined Viacom in 1997 from Booz Allen & Hamilton, where he was a partner in its media and entertainment practice.

“Bob Bakish personifies exemplary leadership during these transformative times,” Lucy Smith, director of MIPCOM Cannes, said in a statement.

Smith said the trade group lauds Bakish for his push to combine streaming video and third-party international content licensing as flourishing as business models under one global media company.

[Bakish] is equipping Paramount for its next era, and our…honor could not be timelier or more relevant,” Smith said.

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Paramount Global Reportedly Drops Plans to Sell BET Media Group Stake, Including BET+ SVOD Service

Paramount Global reportedly has shelved plans to sell its majority interest in BET Media Group — the business unit that includes VH1, BET Studios, the BET+ subscription streaming VOD service, and the BET channel — due to lower-than-expected bids.

While Paramount has made no official comment, The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, reported that the proposed transaction had attracted numerous suitors, including Byron Allen, Sean “Diddy” Combs, “Black-ish” producer Kenya Barris, former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, and Tyler Perry, who owns a minority stake in Bet+, which launched in 2019.

Despite initial bids upwards of $3 billion, Paramount contended the offers would have had little impact on the media giant’s balance sheets, i.e., lowering debt levels, according to The Wall Street Journal. Paramount bought BET in 2001 from co-founder Robert Johnson for $2.3 billion.

Paramount, like AT&T, which sold off minority stakes with operational control in DirecTV and the former WarnerMedia (now Warner Bros. Discovery), has been trying to lower its debt by selling off units, recently offloading its publishing unit Simon & Schuster to a private equity company for $1.62 billion.

The Walt Disney Co. is also considering selling stakes in what it considers non-core assets, including ABC, FX and ESPN, as the company puts greater focus on streaming video rather than linear TV networks.

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Paramount+ Ups Q2 Subs by 700,000 to Top 61 Million Paid Subscribers

Paramount Global Aug. 7 reported it added 700,000 paid subscribers to up its Paramount+ subscriber base to 61 million in the second quarter ended June 30. The SVOD platform ended the previous-year period with more than 43 million subscribers.

Paramount’s direct-to-consumer business segment, which includes Paramount+, Noggin, Pluto TV and BET+, grew subscription revenue 47% to more than $1.2 billion from $816 million in the prior-year period, driven by subscriber growth at Paramount+. Advertising revenue rose 21% to $441 million from $363 million, driven by higher impressions for Paramount+ and Pluto TV. Paramount+ revenue grew 47%, driven by subscriber growth and increased advertising revenue.

Paramount said the DTC segment narrowed its operating loss by $21 million to a loss of $424 million from a loss of $445 million in the same period last year. The media giant said the segment remains on track to become profitable by 2024.

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“Global viewing hours on Paramount+ and Pluto TV were up 35% year-over-year,” Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.