Paramount’s Christian Kurz Touts Pluto TV’s ‘FAST’ Start at London’s Connected TV World Summit

Ease of use and access to companion entertainment are just two of the factors driving consumers to adopt free ad-supported streaming television (FAST), according to new data presented this week at London’s Connected TV World Summit.

Christian Kurz, SVP, global streaming research and insights at Paramount, citing a survey of 5,000 respondents across the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K., said FAST platforms are considered easy to use and provide companion entertainment that doesn’t require much searching.

Christian Kurz, SVP Global Streaming Research and Insights at Paramount

“We found that FAST services are growing rapidly for a few key reasons — they’re simple to use and take the stress out of deciding what to watch, they give users a sense of uplift throughout the day, and they provide an opportunity to explore from the comfort of home,” Kurz said in a summit statement. “Ultimately, they address viewers’ needs in a unique way that complements other services.”

Since acquiring ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV for $340 million 2019, Paramount Global has expanded the platform to incorporate FAST content, which combined with the branded Paramount+ subscription streaming service, are the pillars of the media giant’s over-the-top video strategy.

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With AVOD now morphing into free streaming ad-supported television (FAST), media companies such as Paramount (and Fox Corporation) are extolling the virtues free video content to consumers and advertisers — the latter tasked with paying for it all.

Kurz said the survey found that 81% of FAST users said they “don’t stress over what to watch on it” and 80% contend the platform “makes it easy to find shows to watch,” with another 71% of users agreeing that “I love that it’s just ‘on’ – I don’t need to think about what to watch.”

Overall, 79% of FAST users commend the platform’s “consistently high quality” and 64% say there is no competition to FAST platforms.

For Paramount, that translates into a goldmine of opportunity for marketers and advertisers.

Users see ads as a worthy trade-off for a service they value, with 69% of survey respondents agreeing the concept that “ads on FAST are part of the overall viewing experience.”

Respondents claim they welcome advertising from all brands and industries on FAST channels, with at least 70% saying they would “enjoy or tolerate” seeing ads for movies (91%), tech/electronics (86%), and TV networks/shows (85%) as the most popular.

Finally, the data suggests FAST users don’t find the ad load to be disruptive to their viewing. About 75% are “happy with the amount of advertising on FAST services” and say “the ad load is the same as or lower than on other streaming services.”

‘Rocky,’ ‘Sailor Moon’ Channels Among Content Headed to Pluto TV in March

Free streaming TV service Pluto TV has announced new channels and programming coming to the service in March, including channels with “Rocky” movies and “Sailor Moon” content.

On March 1, the Hollywood movie franchise “Rocky” will enter the Pluto TV programming ring with a new, limited-run channel — Pluto TV Rocky. The channel will stream the “Rocky Collection,” featuring Rocky (1976), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and Rocky Balboa (2006).

Beginning every Wednesday in March, Pluto TV will be highlighting WOW — Women of Wrestling with the new season one reboot episodes and two docuseries, “My Road to WOW — The Secrets of the Superheroes” and “The Origin of WOW — Women of Wrestling,” coming later this month. To celebrate, wrestlers from WOW — Women of Wrestling will join Pluto TV’s Stream-Along on social media every Wednesday in March where they will share insights and special behind-the-scenes commentary.

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The classic anime television show “Sailor Moon,” based on the manga originally launched in the 1990s, will also be joining the Pluto TV lineup in March. The Sailor Moon channel will provide viewers access to hundreds of hours and episodes, including all 200 episodes of “The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon,” all episodes of “The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon Crystal,” and The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon R: The Movie, The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon S: The Movie and The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie.

Season 13 of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” will stream exclusively on Pluto TV on the MST3K channel, and all seven seasons of “Star Trek: Voyager” will land on Pluto TV’s dedicated Star Trek channel, More Star Trek.

Also in March, Pluto TV is adding 2,000 on-demand episodes from CBS and Paramount Media Networks series. Select seasons will be available from shows including “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “The Challenge,” “The Hills,” “Key & Peele,” “Bar Rescue,” “Nathan for You,” “Judge Judy” and more.  This latest installment follows the 6000-plus CBS episodes added to Pluto TV’s VOD section late last year.

Paramount Looking to Extend Streaming Brand Across All Consumer Access Points

Since rebranding erstwhile subscription streaming platform CBS All Access to Paramount+ less than two years ago, the service has tracked the fastest subscriber growth across the entire SVOD market, which includes Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, Peacock and HBO Max. The service ended the most-recent fiscal period with 46 million subscribers, which, when combined with Showtime Anytime, BET+ and Noggin, totaled 67 million subs worldwide for the company’s SVOD digital footprint.

Paramount’s ad-supported free streaming service, Pluto TV, ended the period with 72 million monthly active users globally.

To generate subscriber growth, Paramount has aggressively sought out third-party companies to introduce the Paramount+ service to wider audiences, including Prime Channels (access to Amazon’s massive Prime membership), Walmart+ (free streaming members), and free access to international passengers on British Airways and most recently, domestic travelers on Delta Air Lines, one the nation’s largest carriers handling 50 million passengers annually.

To Jeff Schultz, chief strategy officer and chief business development officer of Paramount Streaming, the moves underscore the media company’s goal to expose subscription streaming and free, ad-supported content to a diverse consumer base across the world’s largest retailer, e-commerce platform and airline. 

With streaming the focus among Paramount’s content studios, brands, franchises, ad sales and distribution, product and technology in 30 markets around the globe, being able to attract a household of users (rather than individuals) through diversity of content such as kids content, procedurals, sports and news, is a competitive advantage , according to Schultz.

In addition to the “Top Gun,” “Paw Patrol,” “Scream,” “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Mission: Impossible” movies, Paramount+ offers access to TV franchises such as Criminal Minds,” “SpongeBob,” “NCIS,” “CSI” and “Yellowstone.”

“Paramount brings a unique level of creativity and ambition to deal-making and we’re not satisfied unless we’re doing deals that are different and differentiated from others,” Schultz said in the company’s “Stream On” interview.

The executive contends that the diversity of content, franchises and distribution are all distinct competitive advantages that money can’t buy.

A franchise is not a decision, it’s an asset,” Schultz said. “What the streaming market has shown us in recent years is that money is not enough. We bring that to streaming as a unique competitive advantage over even the biggest streamers.”

LG at CES: Paramount+ Expanding Internationally on LG Smart TVs; Pluto TV Adding More Than 100 Channels to LG Channels

LAS VEGAS — Paramount+ is expanding on LG smart TVs internationally and Pluto TV is adding more than 100 channels this quarter to LG Channels, said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of Paramount Streaming and co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, at the LG Electronics press conference Jan. 4 on the eve of the CES event in Las Vegas.

LG has “worked closely with global leaders from a wide range of industries, especially the content industry,” said William (Joo Wan) Cho, CEO, LG Electronics, in introducing Ryan.

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“As one of the world’s leading producers of premium content that connects billions of people in nearly every country in the world, we’re leaning into our partnership with LG,” Ryan said. “Paramount Global and LG Electronics have a long-standing partnership. Both companies are respected market leaders, and the combination of Paramount content and LG scale delivers an incredible experience to tens of millions of consumers worldwide. That’s why we’re growing our partnership to accelerate Paramount’s global streaming growth. Pluto TV, the leading free streaming television service, is expanding our channel integration for LG channels, adding over 100 channels this quarter globally. Pluto TV is proud to be the largest content provider for LG channels.

“And today I’m excited to announce that Paramount+ is ready to start its global expansion on LG smart TVs, with the first launch to start today in the U.K. and Ireland. Paramount+ will be available in more countries on LG smart TVs soon to follow in the coming days.”

Pluto TV Launching New Global Branding Campaign With Drew Barrymore

Pluto TV, Paramount’s ad-supported VOD platform, Dec. 15 launched a new global branding campaign starring Drew Barrymore on her daily talk show, “The Drew Barrymore Show,” produced by Paramount Television Studios.

The “Stream Now. Pay Never.” campaign features three commercial spots highlighting the streaming service’s non-subscription access to programming. The video spots officially launch Dec. 16 in the United States and will run across select Pluto TV international territories throughout the beginning of 2023.

“No one is better suited to represent the playful and spirited vibe of Pluto TV than Drew Barrymore,” Tom Ryan, CEO of Paramount Streaming and co-founder of Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Drew captures the essence of Pluto TV with her wit and charm in this new campaign.”

In October, Pluto TV first introduced the tagline “Stream Now. Pay Never.” that was supported by a campaign featuring “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “CSI: Miami,” among others. The new tagline champions Pluto TV’s brand identity and positioning in the evolving streaming landscape where the category of free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) continues to see new entrants and increasing audiences worldwide.

The new campaign will be promoted across the company’s lineup of linear, streaming and digital properties. Following the debut, the campaign flight will continue through Q1 of 2023, with the global rollout launching in multiple markets, including the United Kingdom, Germany, The Nordics and others.

To kick off the creative campaign, on Dec. 15 Drew Barrymore premiered the commercial on her nationally syndicated daily talk show, “The Drew Barrymore Show,” with Pluto TV gifting everyone in the audience a free LG 50-inch smart TV.

Pluto TV Launches FAST Service in Canada

Paramount Global Dec. 1 formally launched its branded free ad-supported streaming television platform Pluto TV in Canada. The service debuts with more than 20,000 hours of programming across more than 110 thematic and single-series channels curated from a content from Paramount and global media partners.

“This year has marked tremendous growth for Pluto TV, having expanded to the Nordics in May and now to Canada. As we are now in more than 30 countries and territories, we are one step closer to our mission to entertain the planet,” Olivier Jollet, EVP and international GM for Pluto TV, said in a statement

Through a partnership with Corus Entertainment (which is selling ads on the platform), Pluto will stream a wide spectrum of free programming, including Canadian dramas, comedies, lifestyle, kids, movies and news.

“The debut of Pluto TV marks the next evolution of streaming in Canada,” said Troy Reeb, EVP of Broadcast Networks for Corus Entertainment. “Our strategy has always been rooted in placing more content in more places.”

Paramount Ups Q3 Global Streaming Subs 42% and Operating Loss 73%

Paramount Global Nov. 2 reported it ended the third-quarter (ended Sept. 30) with 66.5 million direct-to-consumer subscribers, which was up more than 42% from 46.7 million subscribers during the previous-year period. Paramount SVOD subs include Paramount+, Showtime Anytime, SkyShowtime, Noggin and BET+.

Paramount+ ended the quarter with 46 million subs, which was up more than 80% from 25.5 million subs in the previous-year period. Revenue increased 95% to $708 million, from $363 million a year ago.

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish

Paramount+ subscriber growth was driven by launches in international markets as well as the start of the NFL season, UEFA Champions League, and the launch of a Walmart+ partnership.

Both tallies include the impact of the rollout of SkyShowtime with Comcast in Nordics, which resulted in the “loss” of 1.9 million Paramount+ subs in the region, and the elimination of 3.9 million global DTC subscribers, including 1.2 million for Paramount+ in Russia following its invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

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Overall direct-to-consumer subscriber revenue grew 59% to $863 million, from $542 million during the previous-year period. When combined with advertising, total revenue grew 38% to $1.23 billion, from $890 million.

On the flipside, operating expenses increased 44% to more than $1.57 billion, from $1.08 billion a year earlier, resulting in an operating loss of $343 million, 73% higher than an operating loss of $198 million during the prior-year period.

Separately, Pluto TV, the ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming TV service, saw monthly average users increase 32% to 72 million, from 54.4 million users a year ago.

Notably, Pluto advertising revenue declined more than 7% to $268 million, from $289 million.

“In the quarter, Paramount continued to execute on our differentiated strategy … our diverse portfolio of platforms … that continued to drive growth in subscriptions across our streaming platforms with Paramount+ adding 4.6 million subscribers,” Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global, said in a statement.

Paramount Launches ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ Channel on Pluto TV

Paramount announced it has launched “The Ed Sullivan Show” channel on its free ad-supported Pluto TV platform. Housed within the Classic TV category, the 24/7 channel is dedicated to the former television variety show host featuring more than 75 hours of performances that shaped the pop cultural zeitgeist.

More than 51 years after its last broadcast, streamers can experience content collections that include Ed Sullivan’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Classics (Rock `n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Rock Legends, The British Invasion, Psychedelic Sixties, Top Hits of 1965, Top Hits of 1970, West Coast Rock, Lennon & McCartney Songbook, Sounds of The Cities, Gone Too Soon, Motortown Review and First Women of Rock).

The channel will also run TV specials and documentaries, including “The Best of the Ed Sullivan Show,” which comprises 80 edited episodes of original programs that feature groundbreaking performing artists across music, comedy, novelty, dance and opera.

Nearly every Sunday from June 1948 to March 1971, families gathered in their living rooms to see the artists who would later become superstars performing for the first time on television or performing their chart-topping.

“The exclusive dedicated channel showcases historic performances– like The Beatles first appearance in front of an American audience– that continue to shape our culture and spotlights the lasting impact of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,'” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content strategy and global partnerships, Paramount Streaming, said in a statement.

Featuring footage and extended performances from 10,000 performers, the channel spotlights stars such as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Mamas & The Papas and The Jackson 5, alongside comedians such as Joan RiversFlip WilsonAlan King, Stiller & Meara, and Rodney Dangerfield.

Nostalgic show favorites include children’s puppet figure Topo Gigio, plate spinner Erich Brenn, variety-sketch idols The Muppets and the magical Señor Wences, among other talent acts.

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Paramount+, Pluto TV to Live-Stream ‘The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert’ Sept. 3 From Wembley Stadium in London

Paramount will join forces with Foo Fighters and the Hawkins family to present the all-star global music event, The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert, across the global media and entertainment company’s portfolio of broadcast, cable, streaming and digital brands.

The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert

The concert will be live-streamed Sept. 3 at Wembley Stadium in London, directed by Joel Gallen and produced by Emer Patten for EP-PIC Films & Creative. The event is slated to feature the biggest names in music joining together in celebration of the life, music and love of Hawkins, the former Foo Fighters drummer who died March 25 at age 50 from a suspected drug overdose in Bogota, Colombia.

“Music is a powerful connector, and we are honored to commemorate Taylor Hawkins’ enduring legacy by bringing together Paramount’s portfolio of brands and assets to build even deeper connections with his global fan base,” Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount, said in a statement. “From our broad mix of platforms to the universal strength of our brands, Paramount is uniquely positioned to maximize the reach and impact of content worldwide, and we look forward to sharing this meaningful music experience with audiences across every touchpoint.”

Bruce Gillmer, president of music, music talent, programming & events, Paramount and chief content officer, music, Paramount+, said Hawkins was one of the most passionate super fans of the music world.

“His infectious energy and unique talent will continue to live on through his vast body of work,” Gillmer said. “We look forward to leveraging Paramount’s global scale to mirror Taylor’s worldwide impact through this special tribute concert for audiences everywhere.”

The full Wembley Stadium show will be available to stream live across Paramount+ (domestically), Pluto TV (internationally) and MTV YouTube Channels (globally) beginning Saturday, Sept. 3 (11:30 AM EDT / 4:30 PM BST).

On-demand access will be available globally via Paramount+ on Sept. 3 and on Pluto TV and MTV TV VOD starting the week of Sept. 5.

Special editions of the concert will air in prime time across Paramount’s broadcast and cable channels globally:

CBS Television Network will broadcast highlights from the tribute concert on Sept. 3 (10-11 p.m. ET).

MTV will also air the one-hour special across its channels around the world starting in Latin America on Sept. 3 and other international territories on Sept. 4, followed by an extended two-hour compilation that will air globally in September.

Pluto TV Updates Category and Channel Lineup

Paramount-owned, ad-supported service Pluto TV has unveiled a reorganization of its U.S. channel lineup, adding new categories, channels and programming.

“The new lineup is designed to offer greater ease of navigation for users, and more fan-favorite programming based on popular themes and genres being streamed across the platform,” according to Pluto TV.

Audiences now have 18 categories to choose from — three more than before — containing new and existing programming. New categories include Game Shows, Daytime TV, Home, Food, and Lifestyle + Culture. Those are added to existing channels Movies, Entertainment, News + Opinion, Crime, Reality,  Comedy, Classic TV,  Sports, Gaming + Anime, Music, En Español, Kids, and Local. As part of the reorganization, select channels’ content will relocate to new categories that are better suited to their genres, according to Pluto TV.

Genres such as game shows, reality and daytime television series have shown to be incredibly popular among viewers, therefore creating a demand for their own dedicated categories and even more channels and titles added to these categories, according to Pluto TV.

In coordination with the rollout of the new lineup and categories, Pluto TV is also launching two new channels, the Judge Judy Channel and the “Let’s Make a Deal” channel, featuring the updated game show hosted by Wayne Brady.

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“We are always looking for ways to improve our programming offering and make it easier for the audience to find what they are looking for. Not only is this expansion driven by viewing habits we can see, we spoke directly to our audience to gain feedback on suggested changes before they were made,” Scott Reich, SVP of programming at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Everything we do puts the audience first and this optimization is the latest step to maintain our market leadership in partnership with our audience.”

With a global audience of more than 68 million monthly active users, Pluto TV delivers more than 1,000 global channels, featuring on-demand and linear programming, for free, across all major internet connected devices.