Report: Pluto TV to Surpass $1 Billion in Ad Revenue by 2022

Pluto TV, the free ad-supported TV streaming service (FAST) owned and operated by ViacomCBS, is set to increase 2021 revenue nearly 78% to $786.7 million, according to new data from eMarketer. The research firm contends the platform will surpass $1 billion in revenue by 2022 — underscoring the rise in popularity of streaming media for marketers.

Citing third-party survey research, the report suggests 42% of ad buyers will use streaming video for the first time this year, with another 56% continuing the practice — which includes online and linear TV distributors. Indeed, the report found that a majority (60%) of AVOD/FAST ad revenue will come from linear TV, followed by digital display (37%) and other sources.

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ViacomCBS Acquires ChileVisión, Paves Way for Paramount+ and Pluto TV in South America

ViacomCBS Networks International April 5 announced it has agreed to acquire Chilevisión from WarnerMedia. Through the transaction, VCNI further expands its footprint in Latin America and bolsters its streaming business with a new premium content library and pipeline to fuel the increasing demand for Spanish language content across platforms, including Paramount+ and FAST platform Pluto TV.

The purchase price will be financed by ViacomCBS’s existing cash balances. The transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and closing conditions. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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The acquisition includes Chilevisión’s free-to-air television network, which generated about 24% share of viewership in the region in 2020. Chilevisión’s library is comprised of content spanning multiple genres, including sports, entertainment and news, and it has vast production capabilities.

“Latin America is one of the world’s fastest-growing streaming markets, and Chilevisión will be a key driver of our accelerated streaming strategy in the region,” Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, said in a statement.

Chilevisión will fall under the leadership of Juan Acosta, president of ViacomCBS International Studios and Networks Americas. The acquisition joins the ViacomCBS Americas portfolio, which includes Paramount+; Pluto TV; Nickelodeon’s interactive learning service for preschoolers, Noggin; ViacomCBS International Studios production hub; FTA broadcaster Telefe; and more than 10 branded pay-TV networks, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Comedy Central, among others.

VCNI Americas has offices in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia.

NFL Inks New Carriage Deals With NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS; Includes Landmark Streaming on Peacock, Paramount+ and Pluto TV

The National Football League March 18 announced separate 11-year carriage/streaming video distribution deals with NBCUniversal and  ViacomCBS. The pacts include notable live-game streaming rights to games on Peacock, Paramount+, and in a first — Pluto TV — underscoring OTT video’s increased presence in live sports programming in the United States.

With the new agreements, which begin with the 2023 NFL season, NBC and Peacock will present “Sunday Night Football” through 2033 — a span of 28 seasons for NBC as the home of the NFL’s top-rated primetime package (since its 2006 debut). In addition, beginning with the upcoming 2021 season, Peacock will stream all “Sunday Night Football” games and the “Football Night in America” studio show. Peacock will also produce a new expanded postgame show following SNF each week.

“Sunday Night Football’ has been television’s most-watched primetime show for a decade, and we look forward to continuing our presentation of SNF, Super Bowls, and playoff games for many years to come, while also broadening our audience with Peacock becoming the live streaming home for all NBC NFL games,” Pete Bevacqua, chairman of NBC Sports Group, said in a statement.

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NBC Sports, which produced the first-ever NFL broadcast on Oct. 22, 1939 (Philadelphia Eagles-Brooklyn Dodgers from Ebbets Field), will present four of the next 13 Super Bowls, including three Super Bowls as part of the new agreement. Home of the upcoming Super Bowl LVI from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in February 2022, NBC and Peacock will broadcast and stream Super Bowls in February 2026, February 2030 and February 2034. NBC Sports’ presentation of Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015 is the most-watched show in U.S. television history (114.4 million viewers on NBC).

Meanwhile, CBS Sports continues as the home of the NFL’s American Football Conference (AFC), with all games broadcast on the CBS Television Network and streamed live on Paramount+. This historic agreement also grants an expansive list of NFL rights across ViacomCBS networks and platforms (i.e. Pluto TV), enabling the company to maximize its content creation, distribution and reach throughout the length of the deal.

The new agreement allows for CBS Sports to broadcast and stream more Sunday afternoon games and includes an expanded schedule of games featuring teams from the National Football Conference (NFC). In addition, the schedule is highlighted by 10 CBS doubleheaders, including Sundays at 4:25 p.m. ET, eight single-headers and the annual Thanksgiving Day game. CBS Sports will broadcast three Super Bowls over the length of the deal, including the first in the new agreement, Super Bowl LVIII in 2024, as well as Super Bowl LXII in 2028 and Super Bowl LXVI in 2032.

The CBS Television Network and Paramount+ will also present a full slate of playoff games, featuring the AFC Championship game, one Divisional game and one Wild Card game. A second Wild Card game will be added to the CBS Sports lineup during the 2024, 2029 and 2033 seasons.

ViacomCBS will retain extensive in-market exclusivity, ensuring that the CBS-affiliated stations and ViacomCBS platforms will continue to have local availability of “The NFL on CBS.” CBS will also gain increased rights to protect games from being flexed to other networks and time slots.

“Today’s groundbreaking deal ensures that more big games will be available on CBS and Paramount+, with greater NFL programming opportunities featured across all ViacomCBS platforms, including Pluto TV, vastly expanding the NFL’s reach among younger audiences in a rapidly evolving media landscape,” said CEO Bob Bakish.

 

News Analysis: AVOD Upping Content Game

As subscription streaming services HBO Max and Paramount+ prep lower-cost, ad-supported consumer options, free ad-supported platforms are entering the original content arena and targeting a growing audience that eschews pay-TV and is not interested in substituting the cable bill with multiplying SVOD fees.

Pluto TV, the AVOD unit owned by Paramount’s corporate parent ViacomCBS, is eyeing a cross-pollination of original content migrating between its 22 million average monthly viewers and SVOD Paramount+. Fox Corp.’s Tubi is eyeing funding lower-budget original movies and TV shows. The platform saw viewership jump 58% in 2020, including 33 million average monthly viewers throughout the fourth quarter. More importantly, viewers consumed 750 million hours of content in the second quarter, which was 70% higher than the previous corresponding period.

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CFO Steve Tomsic told a recent Wall Street investor group Tubi represents the “broadening of the future” for network television, and said he would consider original programing in an attempt to increase ad revenue, which is expected to reach $300 million this year and $1 billion annually in the near term.

“It’s often these really cost-effective titles that a lot of the viewership resides in,” Tomsic said, adding that Fox content assets such as “The Masked Singer” are being co-distributed on Tubi to give the platform an “extra special” edge, and the platform more “breadth” in terms of content.

“Don’t expect us to invest in really meaningful ways in terms of scripted entertainment dramas that come with huge price tags and are really difficult to make work out of the economics of broadcast television,” Tomsic said.

Meanwhile, Roku, which helped co-launch the SVOD market in 2008 with Netflix, is eyeing original content for The Roku Channel, the company’s branded AVOD platform. As of the fourth quarter of 2020, Roku reported 51.2 million monthly active users in the U.S. This figure is the company’s highest-ever active quarterly user total.

To keep those eyeballs returning, Roku is beginning to dip its toes in original programming. The platform March 19 launches “Cypher,” an FBI series featuring seven, one-hour episodes and available free to viewers of The Roku Channel. The AVOD will also become the exclusive destination for more than 75 premium shows and documentaries acquired from short-lived SVOD platform Quibi.

March 18, Roku announced it would kickoff the IAB’s official 2021 NewFronts Lineup on May 3 as the week’s first presenter to media buyers.

“We’ve seen first-hand the role that TV streaming has played in consumers and marketers lives in the last year,” Alison Levin, VP of global ad revenue and marketing solutions at Roku, said in a statement. “Roku is thrilled to kick-off the first presentation at IAB NewFronts once again this year and looks forward to sharing how marketers can buy TV like you watch TV.”

In February, AVOD service Crackle Plus announced that production had begun on season two of its original series “Going From Broke,” the unscripted show spotlighting the financial epidemic of student loan debt executive produced by Ashton Kutcher and hosted by Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig.

Crackle corporate parent Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment operates several ad-supported streaming services (PopcornFlix, Frightpix, faith-based Truli, Espannolflix), with an eye on streaming original and under-the-radar programming to a growing user base.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says the AVOD market offers programmers and advertisers two options: lower-priced subscription plans such as $5.99 Hulu and pending HBO Max and Paramount+. These AVOD editions are typically limited to delivering no more than three to four minutes of ads per hour. By comparison, completely free platforms such as Tubi, Pluto TV, Amazon’s IMDb TV and Crackle can advertise as much as 10 to 12 minutes per hour.

“There’s room for both business models,” Pachter said in an email. “[Crackle buys] produced content for exclusive streaming windows. Really innovative.”

Pluto TV to Bow Major League Baseball Channel March 2

AVOD platform Pluto TV on March 2 will launch a new channel with Major League Baseball featuring classic games and highlights. The deal was announced Feb. 24 during the ViacomCBS streaming investor day. The branded MLB channel will stream more than 200 hours of ad-supported classic content licensed from the MLB Film & Video Archive, with quarterly refreshes.

MLB Spring Training games begin this weekend in Florida and Arizona, respectively, with Opening Day scheduled for April 1, featuring a quadruple header on ESPN. All 30 clubs are scheduled to play their first regular season games that day.

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The MLB Channel will air a variety of curated content intended to capture the excitement and nostalgia of America’s national pastime. Programming includes World Series and All-Star games and milestones, episodes of “Epic Moments,” “Baseball’s Seasons” and “Cathedrals of the Game” in addition to curated clips and playlists featuring top plays from the legendary sport.

Major League Baseball is the latest sports league to join Pluto TV’s growing lineup, which includes NFL ChannelMajor League SoccerPGA TourBellator MMAPac-12 Insider and more, in addition to hundreds of channels spanning a wide range of other genres, and thousands of movies and TV series.

“To be able to add a Major League Baseball channel for the first time is a landmark event both for us and for baseball fans who are always looking to watch more of their favorite sport,” Will Gurman, VP of global content partnerships at Pluto TV, said in a statement.

Viewers can stream the MLB channel on Pluto TV across all major mobile, connected TV and Web-based devices.

ViacomCBS Networks International Promotes Olivier Jollet to SVP of Streaming Strategy & Business Development

ViacomCBS Networks International Feb. 22 announced the promotion of Olivier Jollet to SVP of strategy and business development, streaming and head of mobile. The move was prefaced last September when Jollet was upped to SVP of emerging business — a new business unit that includes AVOD, SVOD and mobile services.

Jollet will be responsible for defining and developing the streaming strategy and business development priorities across VCNI and securing partnerships to drive growth and revenue. He will also continue to expand VCNI’s mobile business, including 5G and the Internet of Things.

Based in Berlin, Jollet reports to Kelly Day, president of streaming and COO of VCNI, and Jeff Shultz, chief strategy officer and chief business development officer of streaming at ViacomCBS.

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“As the company prepares for the upcoming international rollout of Paramount+ in Latin America, the Nordics and the continued expansion of Pluto TV internationally, elevating Olivier to this new role will enable us to further strengthen our strategy and new market development,” Day said in a statement. “Olivier’s digital expertise and business acumen is critical to our senior leadership team as we expand our integrated ecosystem and continue to deliver an exceptional consumer entertainment experience.”

Jollet previously worked as European managing director for Pluto TV, where he helped launch the first free ad-supported streaming television service in the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

ViacomCBS Bowing New CBS Dramas on Pluto TV; Expanding Streaming Video Biz in U.K.

ViacomCBS is set to bow free access to two new CBS dramas on AVOD platform Pluto TV, including initial episodes of “The Equalizer,” starring Queen Latifah, after the Super Bowl on Feb. 7; and “Clarice,” starring Rebecca Breeds as the FBI agent from The Silence of the Lambs, on Feb. 11. Pluto TV is projected to reach 30 million active monthly users through 2020.

The new series episodes will also be made available on Amazon Prime Channels and CBS YouTube  channel. ViacomCBS is set to launch Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) streaming platform, beginning next month in the U.S., followed by Canada, Latin America, Scandinavia and Australia.

Dan Fahy

Separately, ViacomCBS Networks U.K. announced the creation of a new business unit tasked with expanding video streaming business and partnerships, including AVOD subsidiary Pluto TV, SVOD app MTV Play and Nick Jr.’s Noggin platform.

The unit will be led by Dan Fahy, who was promoted to SVP, head of emerging business. Fahy reports to Sarah Rose, who saw her duties expanded to include Chief Operating and Commercial Officer, VCN U.K. Fahy will oversee all U.K. streaming business, including AVOD service, My5 and Pluto TV U.K. — the latter previously run by ViacomCBS’s EMEA management.

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“By uniting all of our critical growth functions under one new and dedicated team, we’re ensuring that our platforms have the capabilities and resource needed to reach their full potential,” Fahy said in a statement.

In addition, Ashley Sennik was named VP of growth for U.K. Streaming, while Akhila Khanna was promoted to VP of partner engagement and business development. Sennik, who most-recently worked at Sky’s Now TV, will spearhead acquisition, engagement and monetization, with Khanna tasked with streaming partnerships and business development.

Sennik jointly reports to Fahy and Marco Nobili, SVP of international marketing and growth for streaming at VCN Americas. Khanna jointly reports to Fahy and Angela Heckman, SVP of streaming revenue and operations at VCN International.

Pluto TV to Launch in France

ViacomCBS-owned ad-supported VOD platform Pluto TV is coming to France. ViacomCBS Networks International said the service, which was acquired by its corporate parent for $330 million in 2019, would bow on Feb. 8.

The debut follows Pluto TV bows in the U.K., Germany, and throughout Latin America as part of ViacomCBS’s digital strategy encompassing AVOD and SVOD — the latter through pending Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access). ViacomCBS plans to rollout Pluto TV in Italy later this year.

“The launch of Pluto TV in France marks an important step for the growth of our company’s streaming presence in Europe,” Olivier Jollet, SVP of emerging business at ViacomCBS Networks Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, said in a statement.

The company said it projected 40 million average global monthly users of its ad-supported platform in 2020.

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With no registration required, Pluto TV will launch with 40 curated and original channels for French audiences. ViacomCBS brands such as Paramount Pictures, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central will feature content, in addition to third-party fare from international and French publishers, broadcasters and distributors.

Pluto TV is available on all major streaming devices via the app on Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and the Apple Store and Google Play.

CES: Streaming Execs Discuss Race to Please, Attract Customers

Executives from streaming services gathered at the virtual CES Jan. 12 to discuss how they aim to please consumers in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

“We are all in this battle to make sure our customers can find our content as easy as possible,” said Stefanie Meyers, SVP of distribution at Starz, who manages its digital business.

Sarah Lyons, SVP of product experience at WarnerMedia, said the company’s new HBO Max service uses a blend of curation and data to target programming to consumers.

“About two-thirds of the time consumers know what they are looking for,” she said. “In those instances, get out of their way. Make it as easy as possible.”

As far as content, Lyons said, “you see tremendous engagement when you offer up lots and lots of content.” But that content has to be a mix of originals and catalog, she said.

Meyers agreed, noting that theatrical blockbusters with huge marketing campaigns are a draw, but “if you have a deep library, that can help with retention as well.”

Consumers are in different mindsets when they approach a service, Lyons said. Sometimes they are ready to sit down for a two-hour movie, and sometimes they just want to watch for a quick 30 minutes. She noted a trend of families coming together to watch a story, either virtually or in their homes, as families did in the past gathering around the TV.

“What’s old is new,” she said.

Indeed, streaming is the new TV, noted Andrew McCollum, CEO of virtual MVPD Philo.

“20 years from now people aren’t going to consider streaming TV streaming; they’re just going to consider it TV,” he said.

Thus, the competition is heating up in the virtual MVPD marketplace that replicates traditional TV, with consumers confronted with streamers, such as YouTube TV, that are having to raise prices to cover the cost of content, especially sports and news.

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“A lot of the services came to market with price points that were not sustainable,” he said, citing YouTube TV’s price jump from $25 to $65.

Philo took a different tack, eschewing such costly content that consumers may not need or want.

“It was never our intention to be the lowest cost service, but it was our intention to be the best value service,” he said.

Consumers can now get bundles of streaming services “for less than they were paying for cable,” he said.

Pluto TV, now owned by Viacom, relishes its market leading position in the ad-supported VOD or free streaming marketplace, as well as the content available from its parent, said Pluto TV SVP of programming Scott Reich. Pluto fills a niche in the Viacom streaming strategy, he said.

“It’s about creating a complementary ecosystem,” he said. “Pluto is the priority on the free service side of things. Paramount+ and Showtime are obviously the priority on the paid side.”

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Content from Viacom is filling Pluto’s AVOD pipeline, delighting customers with classic shows.

“This year we added a lot of CBS content,” Reich said, allowing Pluto consumers to revisit “Three’s Company,” “Love Boat” and “Happy Days,” among other classics.

“What’s old is new again,” he said.

 Being a free service is an advantage in the crowded streaming market, he noted, “You just fire it up, and it works.”

ViacomCBS CEO: Monthly Pluto TV Users to Reach 40 Million Globally, 19 Million SVOD Subs by Year’s End

ViacomCBS is ending 2020 with some good news. The company expects 40 million average global monthly users of its ad-supported Pluto TV platform, and 19 million combined SVOD subscribers for CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. The updated numbers were disclosed Dec. 8 by CEO Bob Bakish on the virtual UBS Global Investor event.

“We now see domestic streaming and digital revenue, which does include some ad sales, at an annual run rate in Q4 of $3 billion dollars,” Bakish said, adding that the tally is up from the $2.8 billion projected on the previous fiscal call. “That implies over 50% growth in the [fourth] quarter.”

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish

Bakish said the revenue projection underscores his positivity around streaming video as a major future for the company. ViacomCBS plans to hold an investor event in early 2021 to discuss the company’s streaming strategy, which includes further details on the rollout of the rebooted CBS All Access service as Paramount+.

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“We’ll give an update on our entire streaming ecosystem, which includes Pluto TV and Showtime OTT, and how we’re using the great assets of the company to pursue a global streaming strategy,” Bakish said.

Notably, Bakish said ViacomCBS would look to differentiate content offerings across ad-supported Pluto TV, Paramount+ and Showtime OTT, underscoring the fact the latter service would remain separate from Paramount+ in 2021. Bakish said Pluto would act as a link toward the company’s SVOD channels.

“I think it’s fair to say the world is quickly embracing free streaming, which is why Pluto TV is key to our strategy,” he said, adding that streaming video — driven by an average of more than three services in the average U.S. home — represents a global opportunity for the media company.

“It’s definitely a growing category,” Bakish said.

Indeed, Paramount+ will look to combine live sports, breaking news and a “deep roster” of exclusive originals and content franchises for “every audience,” according to Bakish.

“This is a cross-demographic product,” he said.

Bakish outlined a few original series, including limited series “The Offer,” about the making of The Godfather; new SpongeBob kids series “Camp Coral,” which drops after the debut of movie SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run on Paramount+; and a  new series from “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan.

“There’s no question in my mind that our streaming strategy is working,” Bakish said.