Paramount Global, Charter Expand Distribution to Include First-Time Access to Paramount+ Streaming Service

Paramount Global and Charter Communications May 23 announced an extended distribution deal, which in addition to Paramount’s portfolio of linear cable networks and CBS owned-and-operated broadcast stations, includes first time access to ad-supported Paramount+ with Showtime and BET+ Essential — both at no additional cost to Charter’s Spectrum TV customers.

Charter also will make Paramount’s direct-to-consumer products available for purchase to its internet-only customers. Spectrum customers that have Paramount+ Essential included will be offered the opportunity to upgrade to the ad-free version of Paramount+ with Showtime later this year.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“From the outset, Paramount has embraced Charter’s goal of evolving the video distribution model, and we have appreciated their willingness to collaborate on a solution that benefits our mutual customers and the video industry as a whole,” Tom Montemagno, EVP, programming acquisition for Charter, in a statement.

Charter will continue to carry Paramount’s CBS owned-and-operated broadcast stations, along with all of Paramount’s current cable networks and Paramount+ with Showtime, in relevant tiers across all Spectrum TV Select packages, Mi Plan Latino, TV Choice and TV Stream.

Later this year, Paramount+ Essential and BET+ Essential will be made available at no additional cost to all Spectrum TV Select packages and Mi Plan Latino customers through the Xumo Stream Box or any other Paramount+ supported device, and the Paramount+ with Showtime plan will continue to be received at no cost by all of Spectrum’s Paramount+ with Showtime linear customers as well.

“We look forward to bringing even more of our programming to Spectrum customers through our direct-to-consumer streaming services for the first time,” said Ray Hopkins, president of U.S. networks distribution at Paramount.

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Paramount+ to Bow Espionage Thriller Series ‘The Department’ Later This Year

Paramount+ has announced that Joe Wright, the director behind the Golden Globe and multi-BAFTA winning films Pride and Prejudice, The Darkest Hour and Atonement, will direct and executive produce its new espionage political thriller series “The Department,” from Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios. Based on the French drama “Le Bureau des Legendes,” it will debut on Paramount+ for subscribers with the Paramount+ with Showtime plan later this year. 

Tony Award-winning writer Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Ford v Ferrari, Edge of Tomorrow) will executive produce and write all 10 episodes. George Clooney and Grant Heslov will executive produce through their Smokehouse Pictures along with David C. Glasser and 101 Studios.

“Joe Wright is a visionary director with a gift of focusing on intricate details to craft immersive and visually striking stories,” Chris McCarthy, president/CEO Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios, said in a statement. “And, Jez and John-Henry are masterful writers whose witty and emotionally charged language dives deep into their characters’ moral complexities, while simultaneously creating a propulsive narrative. Bringing these powerhouse creatives together alongside George Clooney and Grant Heslov is sure to give The Bureau the reinvention it deserves.”

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“The Department” centers on the daily life and missions of agents within France’s principal external security service. It focuses on the “Bureau of Legends,” responsible for training and handling deep-cover agents on long-term missions in areas with French interests. Living under false identities for years, these agents’ missions are to identify and recruit good intelligence sources. The New York Times named it one of the top international shows of the decade, according to a Paramount+ release.

Guy Ritchie to Direct, Exec Produce Series Based on ‘Ray Donovan’

Paramount+, Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios Feb. 28 announced that Guy Ritchie will direct and executive produce “The Donovans,” a new series loosely based on the Showtime series “Ray Donovan.” The series will debut on Paramount+ for subscribers with the Paramount+ with Showtime plan later this year.

Ronan Bennett (Showtime image)

Irish award-winning screenwriter, producer and novelist Ronan Bennett will pen all 10 episodes.

In the series, with the most powerful clients in Europe, the Donovans will see family fortunes and reputations at risk, odd alliances unfold, and betrayal around every corner; and while the family might be London’s most elite fixers today, the nature of their business means there is no guarantee what’s in store tomorrow.   

“Guy Ritchie and Ronan Bennett are the ideal dream-team to create a new global hit franchise with The Donovans,” Chris McCarthy, president of Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios, said in a statement. “Guy’s riveting and stylish directorial approach combined with Ronan’s captivating and brutally authentic writing will transfix audiences into a wild and twisted world full of new adventures.”

“We’re elated to partner with Showtime/MTV Entertainment Studios to reimagine the Ray Donovan legacy together. Having Guy and Ronan sign on to join us on this incredible journey has been a true blessing,” David C. Glasser, CEO of 101 Studios, said in a statement. “We could not be more thrilled to take this huge hit and create a new and exciting show for audiences all over the world.”

“I’m thrilled to be working with Showtime, Paramount+ and 101 Studios. We’re going to deliver a show which provides massive thrills, entertainment and a huge rush of adrenaline for audiences around the world,” Bennett said in a statement. “At the same time, I’m totally focused on exploring real characters, in body and in soul, and I’m committed to writing stories with deep dramatic impact. We’re going to get under the skin of the criminal underworld, in a way which will show you the bone-deep truths of how they live and how it sometimes will – inevitably – impact on our own lives.”

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Bennett is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, journalist and novelist, whose early life run-ins with the law underpin his portrayal of crime and justice. At just 19 years old, Bennett was wrongfully convicted of murder and serving life in a maximum-security prison, until 18 months later when his conviction was overturned, following legal appeals.

Bennett’s harrowing experience influenced his first major work The Catastrophist, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Award for best novel. His distinct point of view on the criminal underworld caught the eye of Michael Mann, who commissioned Bennett to write the screenplay for Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. In 2011, Bennett created, produced and wrote all episodes of “Top Boy,” a crime-fueled drama series chronicling drug dealing and gang violence in London. Bennett is also the creator and showrunner of the upcoming TV adaptation of “The Day of the Jackal,” which stars Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne and has been written by Bennett.

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+ With Showtime Officially Launches, Priced at $11.99 Monthly

Paramount+ and Showtime Anytime June 27 officially combined services into a unified SVOD platform priced at $11.99 monthly. The standalone Showtime platform will shutter at the end of the year. Paramount’s ad-free service was previously priced at $9.99 per month. The less-expensive ad-supported option increased $1 to $5.99 and does not include Showtime.

The move was originally announced during Paramount Global’s last fiscal call, in a move designed to save $700 million in operating costs.

Top Showtime content joining Paramount+ includes “Yellowjackets,” “Your Honor,” “George & Tammy,” “Dexter,” “The Chi,” “Billions,” “The Curse,” “Fellow Travelers,” “The Woman in the Wall” and “A Gentleman in Moscow,” among others.

“By adopting the boundary-pushing programming of Showtime onto our platform, Paramount+ has fortified itself as the ultimate total household destination in streaming,” Tom Ryan, CEO of Streaming at Paramount, said in a statement. “Together, these powerhouse brands will showcase the breadth and depth of our content offering from across Paramount. At this price point, we’ll put the value of the Paramount+ with Showtime plan up against any other.”

Paramount ended the most recent fiscal period with 60 million paid subscribers, which included Showtime, Noggin and BET+.

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CFO: Paramount+, Showtime Streaming Merger Justifies Pending Subscription Price Increases

Paramount is set to combine its branded Paramount+ and Showtime Anytime streaming services into a single platform, which will include monthly subscription price increases from $1 to $2 (without ads), according to CFO Naveen Chopra.

Speaking Feb. 28 at the 31st Annual Deutsche Bank Media, Internet and Telecom confab in Palm Beach, Fla., Chopra said the merger and price increase would be a benefit to consumers as well as help Paramount reduce content spending and related direct-to-consumer costs (marketing, content, technology, etc.), upwards of $700 million alone this year across Showtime.

Paramount reported a $1.81 billion loss on revenue of $4.9 billion for its direct-to-consumer streaming operations in 2022.

Paramount CFO Noveen Chopra

“With Showtime content [currently] integrated [on the Paramount+ bundle], we know customers are willing to pay [more] for that,” Chopra said, adding that the bundle has also driven subscriber growth.

“A pretty sizable chunk of customer adds today, so clearly that combination helps drive pricing,” he said. “What that says to us is that the risk in [increased] pricing is less about churn [existing subs not renewing] and more about the top of the funnel: engaging new customers.”

Chopra said the current bundle has proven to be “highly accretive” from a customer engagement and retention perspective. He said he believes the merger would also help reinvigorate the Showtime studio by taking historical content and creating new franchises.

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Showtime original shows include “Billions,” “Dexter,” “Yellowjackets” and “Your Honor,” among others.

“From the consumer perspective, there’s a lot at play,” he said.

All of this maneuvering is aimed at transitioning Paramount’s streaming video business from topline growth to bottom line profitability driven in part by average-revenue-per-user (ARPU) and other measures that included last year partnering with Comcast-owned Sky Group for a co-branded (SkyShowtime) streaming platform in Europe. Paramount is also debuting original Paramount+ content across alternative channels for incremental license revenue.

“Not everything has to be exclusive to [Paramount+] streaming,” Chopra said regarding the business’ economic fundamentals.

Paramount has said it expects the streaming business to generate $9 billion in revenue and $6 billion in content spend by 2024. The CFO admitted the former is now challenged by existing macro advertising trends across pay-TV and streaming, but offered no changes to the fiscal outlook.

“We’re always doing things to unlock new efficiencies,” Chopra said, alluding to changes in how Paramount markets content, including levering international platforms rather than purchasing third-party media ads.

Restructuring includes the creation of holdings companies rather than individual ad teams for separate distribution platforms, in addition to ongoing efforts to realign international operations, which has meant transitioning away from separately operating companies.

“We clearly were not getting leverage on a global basis,” Chopra said. “There’s a lot of opportunity there that we’re unlocking.”

That opportunity includes offering tiered subscription pricing in Europe for the first time. Chopra said a lower-priced ad-supported option will be rolled out, in addition to higher priced premium tiers depending on the market. The executive said the move from a single pricing tier to multiple options will help broaden the consumer market.

“Our expectations in most of these markets is that ARPU will actually grow,” Chopra said. “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished in the first couple of years [since the launch of Paramount+], but we’re also very focused on turning streaming into a business that has profitability characteristics that we like.”

CEO Bob Bakish Confirms Paramount+, Showtime Merger Coming

Scuttlebutt about a possible merger between subscription streaming VOD services Paramount+ and Showtime in the U.S. has been confirmed, according to a reported staff memo from Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish.

The pending consolidation will combine Showtime’s linear distribution with streaming under the Paramount+ brand umbrella and be called “Paramount+ with Showtime.” Pricing and launch date have not been disclosed. Showtime is currently available to Paramount+ subs as a discounted $14.99 bundle without ads,$11.99 with ads.

Bob Bakish

Paramount+ also currently offers Showtime content in Europe, and the latter is available in a joint offering with Comcast-owned Sky satellite TV platform, branded Sky Showtime.

Notable Showtime original content includes the “Dexter” franchise, “Your Honor,” “Yellowjackets,” “Billions,” “Homeland, “The Chi and “Fellow Travelers,” among others.

Chris McCarthy will continue to head Showtime’s original content production and linear channel, with Tom Ryan, CEO of Streaming at Paramount Global, handling all over-the-top video matters.

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“This new combined offering demonstrates how we can leverage our entire collection of content to drive deeper connections with consumers and greater value for our distribution partners,” Bakish wrote in the memo. “This change will also drive stronger alignment across our domestic and international Paramount+ offerings, as international Paramount+ already includes Showtime content. And, very importantly, this integration will unlock operational efficiencies and financial benefits across our broader portfolio.”

Chris McCarthy

In a separate memo, McCarthy hinted that the consolidation would result in some Showtime shows not being renewed, including programs reportedly generating less than 10% of the streamer’s viewership. Series include “Three Women,” “American Gigolo” and “Let the Right One In.”

McCarthy plans to hold a Town Hall in Los Angeles the week of Feb. 23rd with Showtime employees to delve further into the details of the merger, which could include layoffs.

“Showtime content appeals to metro-minded viewers who are more culturally diverse with a higher concentration living in cities vs. the population at large,” McCarthy wrote. “These audiences and themes are complementary to the Paramount+ brand, which is much broader, appealing to the entire family and general market audiences across the country.”