Pluto TV Launches AVOD Service in the Nordics

Paramount Global’s free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) and ad-supported VOD (AVOD) platform, Pluto TV, May 18 expanded to the Nordics, launching in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The service unveiled a programming line-up that features more than 70 unique and locally curated channels now live in each country.

For the first time internationally, Pluto TV will offer live sports. Bellator MMA, the leading global MMA organization, will have a dedicated channel streaming all 2022 fights exclusively in the Nordics, with many fights streaming live, in addition to bonus content and library, beginning June 24 with “Bellator 282,” featuring Dutch Middleweight World Champion Gegard Mousasi taking on undefeated No. 1 ranked contender Johnny Eblen.

Paramount’s AVOD service is launching in the Nordics through a partnership with Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group). Pluto TV will launch in combination with NENT’s AVOD service, Viafree. Following the launch, Viafree will be phased out as a standalone service.

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Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan

“Pluto TV launched with a mission to entertain the planet, and today’s highly-anticipated launch in the Nordics brings us another step closer to achieving our goal,” Tom Ryan, CEO of Paramount Streaming and founder of Pluto TV. “The union of Pluto TV and Viafree delivers the best of both worlds, debuting a frictionless and free streaming destination with something for everyone.”

Pluto TV in the Nordics features an abundance of programming, including globally recognized titles from content partners, fan favorite and exclusive titles from Paramount’s brands, as well as extensive hours of local hits from Viafree.

The content includes: Lyxfällan/Luksusfellen/Luksusfælden (“Luxury Trap”), in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Swedish audiences can enjoy Svenska Truckers (“Swedish Truckers”) and Svenska Hollywoodfruar (“Swedish Hollywood Wives”); Danish fans can enjoy channels such as: Familien fra Bryggen (“The Kesslers”) and MasterChef — Danmarks Største Madtalenter (“MasterChef”); while Norwegian audiences can stream channels such as Eventyrlig Oppussing (“Amazing Makeovers”) and celebrity cooking show Camp Kulinaris (“Camp Kulinaris”). 

In both Denmark and Norway, audiences can stream a channel featuring the reality show “Paradise,” which will become available later this month, with new episodes released weekly, following the show’s premiere on Viaplay.

Pluto TV has also partnered with World RX to offer all 2022 live events and library races from the FIA World Rallycross Championship through the RX TV channel, available in Denmark and Norway from July 1. World RX at Höljes, Sweden, on July 2-3, will be the first live event on the 24/7 rallycross channel.

In partnership with MTV, internationally known Swedish band Mando Diao May 18 will record an MTV Unplugged performance in Stockholm. The performance will premiere exclusively on Pluto TV’s MTV Unplugged in October.   

Pluto TV will also launch with a dedicated “Star Trek” channel featuring the Star Trek franchise hits, such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager,” among others.

Pluto TV Movies features fan-favorite titles including the sci-fi classic and Oscar nominated Dune by director David Lynch; comedy movie Dinner for Schmucks with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell; and actioner Red Dawn with Chris Hemsworth.

The platform will feature classic crime shows such as “FBI Files,” “New Detectives” and “Cops,” as well as new series “True Nordic Crimes.”

From the MTV library, Pluto TV will offer dedicated channels featuring “The Hills,” “Catfish: The TV Show” and “Ex on The Beach,” among others. Comedy Central hits shows include a dedicated 24/7 “South Park” channel along with the return of “The Daily Show,” with episodes released day-and-date with the U.S. release.

“This transformative partnership will serve as the framework as we continue to expand Pluto TV throughout Europe and in new continents, including Australia and Africa, bringing this strategic model of free streaming to the world,” said Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of international networks, studios and streaming at Paramount.

Paramount Announces Global Management Changes to Help Drive Streaming Video

Paramount Global May 16 announced management appointments to expand the company’s international expansion of its streaming products, Paramount+ and Pluto TV.

Marco Nobili has been promoted to EVP, international GM of Paramount+, where he will lead the strategy and execution for Paramount’s SVOD/AVOD platform’s continued expansion in markets worldwide. Olivier Jollet has been elevated to the role of EVP, International GM of Pluto TV to continue the free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) service’s international growth.

Marco Nobili

Nobili and Jollet report to Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of international networks, studios and streaming, and to Tom Ryan, CEO of streaming and founder of Pluto TV.

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“With Paramount+ and SkyShowtime expected to expand to 60 markets by end of 2022, and Pluto TV continuing to expand worldwide, I’m confident Marco and Olivier’s leadership will enable us to seize the opportunity and build on our progress towards our integrated global streaming business,” Annecchino said in a statement.

Previously SVP of international marketing, data an analytics for Paramount Global’s streaming division, Nobili will now oversee all operations for Paramount+ outside the U.S., including content, marketing, distribution, data and operations. Building on the service’s momentum since launching in 2021, Nobili will lead the strategy and execution for Paramount+’s continued growth. Marco has deep streaming experience, having formerly worked at both Netflix and Amazon.

Olivier Jollet

Jollet, who previously served as SVP and GM of Pluto TV internationally, will lead a coordinated approach to further expand Pluto TV outside the U.S., which is live in 30 countries and territories globally. Jollet will oversee all operations for Pluto TV outside the U.S., including ad sales, content, marketing, distribution, data and operations. Jollet will look to identify new partnerships and opportunities for Pluto TV across the digital entertainment ecosystem.

This year, Paramount+ will expand to the U.K. and many European countries, as well as South Korea, and, in 2023, India. Pluto TV is set to launch in the Nordics May 18, through a partnership with NENT Group, bringing the service’s global footprint to three continents and more than 30 countries and territories including Spain, France and Germany. The company offers a differentiated streaming portfolio, with SkyShowtime, a joint venture premium streaming service with Comcast that will launch in many European countries beginning in 2022.

By the end of this year, Paramount will have paid streaming services available in more than 60 markets across the U.K., Latin America, Canada, Australia, South Korea, the Caribbean and all major markets in Europe, and in 2023, the company will expand further in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Paramount+ Adds 6.8 Million Q1 Subs, Pluto TV Reaches 68 Million Monthly Users

Paramount Global May 3 reported that its branded subscription streaming platform, Paramount+, added 6.8 million subscribers in the first quarter (ended March 31). The hybrid SVOD/AVOD platform (formerly CBS All Access) ended the period with almost 40 million subs — up 140% from 16.5 million in the previous-year period.

When combined with the Noggin, BET+ and Showtime OTT, Paramount said its worldwide subscription base added 6.3 million subs to end the quarter with more than 62 million paid members. That is up almost 74% from 35.9 million subs in the previous-year period. The additions offset in part a combined 500,000-sub decline at BET+, Showtime and Noggin.

Paramount+ subscription revenue increased 95% to $742 million from $380 million in the previous-year period.

Average titles consumed and hours per active sub improved quarter-over quarter across all demos highlighting improved engagement, content
exploration and diversification. Domestically, Paramount+ saw strong engagement and consumption from a variety of content, including “Halo,” “1883,” “Star Trek: Picard,” live events and the NFL. Internationally, “Acapulco Shore” was a top acquisition and engagement driver for the service.

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Pluto TV gained broad distribution through third-party deals with T-Mobile via T-Mobile Tuesdays, giving consumers exclusive access to new content and original series. The ad-supported platform’s total global viewing hours by doubled year-over-year, while launching more than 102 new channels internationally, totaling more than 1,000 global channels.

Pluto TV revenue increased 59% to $347 million from $218 million in the previous-year period.

“Our [direct-to-consumer] strategy is working, and our execution is strong, as we remain focused on delivering a great experience for consumers and a compelling financial model to our shareholders,” Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global, said in a statement.

Pluto TV to Launch AVOD/FAST Service in the Nordics on May 18

Paramount Global’s free ad-supported streaming television platform, Pluto TV, is set to launch in Sweden, Norway and Denmark on May 18. First announced last November, the platform will offer more than 200 curated channels, in addition to Viafree, NENT Group’s free on-demand linear channels, which are also available in Finland. NENT is handling all ad sales for Pluto TV in the region.

“I’m confident that Pluto TV will capture the attention of the Nordics markets and consumers, quickly becoming a new destination both for fans of curated content as well as for clients and partners interested in investing in a new and unique streaming service,” Olivier Jollet, GM and SVP for Pluto TV International, said in a statement.

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Paramount catalog content streaming on Pluto includes “Catfish: The TV Show,” “South Park” and “Dora the Explorer,” in addition to select movies. Viafree series include “Frozen Roads,” “MasterChef DK” and “Amazing Makeovers,” among others. 

“Viewers will be able to enjoy popular Viafree formats … while we are able to offer advertisers an attractive proposition as the platform’s advertising sales partner in the region,” added Lars Mossing, SVP of ad sales for NENT Group.

Pluto TV ended 2021 with more than 52 million average monthly viewers.

Paramount Global CFO: Separating SVOD, AVOD Strengthens the Brand

Paramount contends it can reach 100 million global subscribers by 2024, after adding 21 million subs in 2021 across both Paramount+, Showtime Anytime, and Noggin, among other services, in addition to generating $1 billion in revenue from free ad-supported streaming television service Pluto TV.

Paramount Global CFO Naveen Chopra

Speaking March 15 at the Deutsche Bank 30th Annual Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, CFO Naveen Chopra said management has its foot on the gas pedal transitioning Paramount+ into what he characterized is a “top-tier” streaming business model.

Chopra reiterated that Paramount+, unlike other pureplay SVOD services, would diversify its content by offering a “much wider” program selection that includes news, reality and live sports, in addition to scripted programming across the 35 countries it is operating in. By contrast, market heavyweight Netflix does not offer live sports or news.

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“So, broad content is a critical part of our strategy,” Chopra said, adding that the company has a broader strategy regarding streaming, which he said includes separating SVOD from ad-supported VOD and FAST. Paramount+ does offer a less expensive ad-supported subscription streaming option.

He said Paramount Pictures would continue to implement a “fast-follow” strategy releasing theatrical releases into digital streaming and retail channels 45 days after their box office debut. The studio will also “lean heavily” on successful franchises, which include “Paw Patrol,” “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Transformers,” “A Quiet Place,” “Top Gun” and “Mission: Impossible,” among others.

“Without well-known IP, you’re not stuck in the mode of having launch new shows and build new audiences every single time,” Chopra said.

Paramount is also touting its relationship with Taylor Sheridan, creator of the “Yellowstone” series, and “1883” spin-off mini-series series, starring Kevin Costner, Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, among others, respectively.

“We’ve also done some very savvy things like, ‘how do you take an NFL audience and get them into that next scripted show, that’s going to make them really sticky and cause churn to decrease significantly?'” Chopra said.

The executive said Paramount aims to attract consumers that covet SVOD and AVOD separately, calling it a wider target market than most streaming platforms are focused on.

“If you want to have both free ad-supported and subscription, we think it’s important to keep those things separate,” Chopra said. “It’s very confusing to have all that in one service.”

He said that with ad-supported Pluto TV, the company has the ability to shout from the rooftop that the platform is free to consumers. By contrast, Paramount+ is marketed offering higher-quality content than FAST.

“We really like that positioning because it clarifies the value proposition in customers’ minds and allows us to address the entirety of that [total addressable market],” Chopra said.

Chizicks Exit Genius Brands, ChizComm Companies

ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media founders Harold and Jennifer Chizick have left Genius Brands, ChizComm and ChizComm Beacon Media.

“We are extremely disappointed to be leaving Genius Brands and ChizComm after less than a year of being with Genius Brands,” they said in a statement. “However, our vision on how to best grow the company does not align well with Genius Brands.

“Last week, Genius Brands imposed organizational changes that reduced our role in the company and was a breach of our agreement with Genius Brands. Efforts to resolve this matter in an amicable fashion have been unsuccessful. We believe that we have been terminated on a without cause basis and now have no choice but to depart the company and explore options for how to recoup the considerable sums remaining due to us.

“ChizComm staff is at the heart of everything we do. We want to thank this phenomenal team — past and present — that have contributed to building a great organization that prioritizes integrity, drive and passion. And to the ChizComm client base, it has been an honor working in partnership to unlock opportunities and drive growth. Stay tuned for what we do next.”

Genius Brands International issued a statement in response: “Harold Chizick and Jennifer Chizick, employees of the company’s ChizComm subsidiary, have been terminated for cause. The company believes this decision to be in the best interest of its shareholders and customers. Business will continue as usual under current management, with Donna MacNeil as President of ChizComm and Kathleen Campisano as Global Chief Marketing Officer and General Manager of ChizComm Beacon Media subsidiaries. The company is fully invested in the success of these subsidiaries and believes it will be more fully realized under Ms. MacNeil’s and Ms. Campisano’s leadership.”

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Harold and Jennifer Chizick in 2013 founded ChizComm Ltd., a marketing communications and media buying agency in the lifestyle, family, entertainment, toy and gaming spaces.

In February 2021, ChizComm Ltd. and ChizComm Beacon Media were acquired by Genius Brands. Harold Chizick served as CEO of both companies and Jennifer Chizick as COO of ChizComm Ltd. Additionally, Harold Chizick was named president of marketing, content sales and consumer products for Genius Brands.

In the past year working with Genius Brands, Harold Chizick secured a master toy partner for “Rainbow Rangers,” led the partnership to have Kartoon Channel! stream on Pluto TV, and led the marketing to deliver over 70 million views on “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” according to a statement from the Chizicks.

FAST, AVOD Services Getting Better, More-Exclusive Content, OTT.X@Pipeline Panelists Say

Free ad-supported TV (FAST) and ad-supported VOD (AVOD) services are becoming the hot ticket in digital distribution, according to panelists at the 14th Annual OTT.X@Pipeline event in Los Angeles Dec. 8.

“Suddenly, AVOD is becoming part of the broader distribution strategy for major studios and indie studios alike, whereas in the early days, AVOD services had just 10, 15-year-old catalog,” said Pluto TV’s Will Gurman.

Now, content owners are looking at an earlier window for ad-supported release, and the business is looking for exclusives.

“There’s a huge opportunity now with indie producers, and we’ve done this with a number of films, where in a traditional pay one window we might come in and provide some level of AVOD exclusivity, and we market and we promote, treat the film the way that you’d see years ago from SVOD services before they started moving more and more into originals,” Gurman said.

The business is projected to reach $4 billion by 2024, said Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia, and “a lot of the growth in this industry has happened in the last 18 months.”

Pluto TV, owned by ViacomCBS, is a FAST service with more than 300 channels in the United States and is in 26 regions globally. The service also has thousands of titles available via AVOD.

“We’re about 8 years old and Pluto’s really founded with the contrarian principle,” Gurman said. “When everyone was going to SVOD and going to VOD, Pluto went the other way and went back to linear and back to ad-supported and presented a platform of channels in a familiar format and familiar content and were really a pioneer in growing and building out the FAST channel space.”

As ad-supported services have joined the space, differentiation is becoming more important to rise above the competition, he said.

“Differentiation is key for us now,” he said. But rather than focusing on originals, the service is looking for original channels.

“Certain platforms are investing heavily into original content,” he noted. “For us at Pluto, one thing we’ve really focused on and continued to focus on is differentiating on our channels and making sure — while we don’t have original content — the majority of channels can’t be found on other platforms,” he said. “A great example of that recently was a channel that we launched with professional bull riders, a fantastic organization with a fan base of over 80 million in the U.S.”

The company had been a niche SVOD service.

“We quickly learned about their marketing strength, how strong and important their fan base was and what their experience had been as a niche SVOD service, looking at potentially transitioning them to a new business model that could help them reach a broader audience,” he said.

Now, the bull-riding content has its own ad-supported channel exclusively on Pluto.

“It’s called PBR Ridepass, and we’re certainly looking to do more types of opportunities like that,” Gorman said.

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In fact, the ad-supported PBR channel launched on Pluto on the day the SVOD service shut down.

“We worked hand and hand with them on marketing to all their subscribers [about the transition],” Gorman said.

“It’s not just about the PBR channel in isolation,” he added. “We have a strong audience that likes content with a strong overlap. We have channels of outdoor content, we have action movies. ‘Walker Texas Ranger’ is a great overlap in content.”

Meanwhile, PBR helps viewers discover other channels they like on Pluto, he said.

“There’s a huge opportunity for SVOD platforms to offer linear channels in the AVOD space,” Gurman noted, adding Pluto TV has a channel with Britbox.

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Mike Woods, a veteran of digital content service company Amagi, has started Orka TV to help ad buyers find easier ways to utilize AVOD and FAST services. The digital realm is rapidly becoming the new TV, he said.

“It is all available,” he said. “Everything can be done now.”

He noted that a channel that used to cost $500 million to set up, now costs just thousands.

Gurman and Woods noted that the monthly active users (MAU) measure of ad-supported service success is antiquated and can be fudged — for instance by counting imagined co-viewers. Pluto TV focuses on viewing hours or revenue, for instance. Revenue per hours of viewing is a key metric, Woods said.

“If you’re getting revenue per second, you’re doing pretty good,” he said.

CEO Bob Bakish: Pluto TV Profitable, Paramount+ in a ‘Couple Years’

ViacomCBS’s aggressive foray into streaming video is nearing positive results to the fiscal bottom line, according to CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking Dec. 7 at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference 2021, Bakish said the media giant’s direct-to-consumer segment would realize $5 billion in revenue this year based on the numbers through the current fiscal quarter. While revenue is one thing, the bottom line is another.

Bob Bakish

And for that, Bakish had good news. Pluto TV, the ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television platform, is already turning a profit since ViacomCBS acquired the service for $340 million in 2019. Even better, the AVOD service is generating profit margins that rival broadcast.

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As to Paramount+, the erstwhile CBS All Access streaming service rebranded earlier this year, profitability remains a light at the end of a shortening tunnel. In November, the platform saw its best week (and month) ever in terms of new subscribers with concurrent streaming access to theatrical release Clifford the Big Red Dog.

“We see Q4 accelerating [sub growth]; in fact that acceleration will be greater than when that comment [was made] on the [Nov. 4 fiscal] call,” Bakish said. “[Paramount+] will take a couple of years, as it has for everyone, to get to profitability. But we look at our [projections] and we get to that as well. We’re clearly moving in the right direction.”

The CEO said exclusive content has been a sub driver, with Clifford the most-watched movie on Paramount+ thus far, followed by South Park: Post-COVID, which Bakish said set first-day streaming records on the platform.

“As everyone has probably heard by now, ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ was the No. 1 scripted original drama we’ve launched since the rebrand of [CBS All Access to Paramount+],” he said. “It was also the biggest scripted premiere on broadcast since ‘Yellowstone,’ reaching over 3 million viewers.”

Bakish said the streamer is also benefiting from the cross-platform distribution model moving primetime network TV shows to Paramount+ after initial broadcast episodes — a strategy employed on the series “SEAL Team.”

“We’ve seen that be a nice driver of subscribers,” he said.

ViacomCBS and NENT Group Partner for Pluto TV’s 2022 Launch in the Nordics

ViacomCBS Networks International, a division of ViacomCBS, and Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) Nov. 29 announced a partnership for a new Pluto TV service across Sweden, Denmark and Norway in 2022.

The service combines ViacomCBS’s free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service with the biggest pan-Nordic AVOD platform Viafree. NENT Group will serve as the platform’s leading advertising sales partner.

Upon launch, Pluto TV viewers will be able to stream Viafree local favorites such as “Paradise,” “Luxury Trap” and “Familien fra Bryggen,” alongside global content from ViacomCBS’s library such as “The Hills,” “Awkward,” “MTV Unplugged” and “Catfish,” and content from multiple partners packaged in thematic channels, including Pluto TV Movie, Pluto TV Crime, Pluto TV History, and Pluto TV Comedy, among others.

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“This transformational partnership will boost Pluto TV’s growth internationally, and we expect to replicate this strategic model across key international markets,” Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of VCNI, said in a statement.

NENT CEO Anders Jensen said the agreement would help strengthen Viafree’s ability to grow its SVOD platform. Following the launch of Pluto TV, Viafree will be phased out as a standalone platform.

“With this [partnership], we are taking an important further step to sharpen our focus on our fast-growing Viaplay SVOD service, which we expect to have at least 12 million subscribers in 2025,” Jensen said.

Pluto TV, which is available in 26 markets globally, including the U.S., Latin America, and Europe, realized 48% year-over-year growth in advertising revenue through Sept. 30. The platform ended the most-recent quarter with more than 54 million average monthly views.

ViacomCBS Q3 SVOD Subs Near 47 Million; AVOD Monthly Views Top 54 Million

ViacomCBS Nov. 4 announced that its portfolio of subscription streaming video services ended the third quarter (Sept. 30) with 46.7 million global subscribers — up 67% from 27.9 million subs in the previous-year period. The media giant’s subscription streaming services are led by Paramount+, Showtime OTT and Noggin, among others.

The media giant announced a promotional campaign with T-Mobile, affording its smart phone subs (including Sprint) access to 12 months of free Paramount+ access. The promotion, which begins Nov. 9, applies to new and existing subscribers.

Separately, ad-supported VOD/FAST platform Pluto TV ended the quarter with 54.4 million monthly average users, which was up 52% from 35.8 million MAUs in the previous period.

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“We added 4.3 million global streaming subscribers … driven by the scaling of the diverse content offering on Paramount+,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement, adding that Pluto TV would be a $1 billion revenue asset in 2021.

Paramount+ viewership increases have been driven in part by a content offerings that theatrical releases A Quiet Place Part II and Paw Patrol: The Movie, in addition to the Return of the NFL, and the new CBS fall primetime season.

“Looking forward, we’re thrilled about the fresh array of content coming to Paramount+ in the next few months and can’t wait to share it with our global audience,” Bakish said. “Our strategy is clearly working and we’ll continue to use the power of global content, distribution and market expansion to drive scale.”