It’s a ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ World at ViacomCBS

“SpongeBob SquarePants” may be an American animated comedy television series originally created for Nickelodeon, but the series about a sea sponge and his aquatic friends in the fictional underwater city of Bikini Bottom is also a distribution goldmine for ViacomCBS.

So much so that CEO Bob Bakish used the cartoon character to underscore how the media giant hopes to monetize content assets across emerging distribution platforms.

Speaking March 4 at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom confab in San Francisco, Bakish outlined how “SpongeBob” IP helps link ViacomCBS’s three business units: linear television, video streaming and feature film.

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Bakish said the cartoon franchise is currently distributed globally on television, including serving “roughly 40% of all children” in the United States. “SpongeBob” is distributed on both ad-supported Pluto TV and subscription-based CBS All Access and Noggin.

“That provides additional reach as we build out our assets,” Bakish said. “In the studio business, ‘SpongeBob’ will debut its third feature film, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in the second quarter. That film has tested very well and provides incremental reach and incremental monetization.”

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) generated $140 million at the worldwide box office, including $85 million in the United states. A sequel, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015) generated $325 million at the global box office, including $163 million in the U.S.

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Bakish said ViacomCBS is producing two feature-length “SpongeBob” spin-off movies for Netflix, representing a “profitable, low-risk rental business with set margins,” which he said translates to content ownership for separate distribution down the road, including consumer products and recreation.

“So, we’re convinced that both an O&O [owned and operated] and a third-party studio strategy is absolutely right for ViacomCBS,” Bakish said. “We believe that maximizing the value of our content asset, that is what you see us executing in 2020 and beyond.”

At Paramount Pictures, Bakish said the focus is to improve content ROI, which he said means a balanced release slate and co-financed movies. Pending releases include: A Quiet Place Part II and Top Gun: Maverick.

The studio in the most-recent fiscal period generated more revenue from home entertainment than theatrical distribution. Bakish dismissed that “aside” and pointed to Paramount’s improved growth in revenue and earnings over the previous eight fiscal quarters.

He said the studio has ramped up television content production, a business that didn’t exist five years ago. The segment is now producing 27 series, including “13 Reasons Why” for Netflix and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime Video.

Bakish said Paramount’s “pay 1 window,” the period in which content rights are available to premium cable networks as Starz and HBO and subscription streamers like Netflix, has “tremendous” value.

“We’ve certainly gotten calls about it,” he said. “At the same time it certainly has strategic value to us.”

Viacom Expands Distribution Deal with Virgin Media to Include Pluto TV

Viacom International Media Networks and Virgin Media Oct. 7 announced an expanded content distribution agreement for the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In addition to live, on-demand and streaming rights to MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and Paramount Network, the new deal includes access to Pluto TV — the $340 million ad-supported VOD service Viacom acquired earlier this year.

The Pluto brands includes Pluto TV Drama, Pluto TV Romance and Pluto TV Crime, among 60 channels.

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“This renewed and broadened partnership with Virgin Media speaks to the strength of our brands and content, as well as our investment in new streaming apps, which will allow Virgin Media customers to access their favorite Viacom content in new ways,” Arran Tindall, SVP, commercial and content distribution, for Viacom International Media Networks, said in a statement.

The deal also includes first-time Virgin access to Viacom’s U.K. apps My5 (Channel 5, including content from A+E and PBS America)) and MTV Play.

The pact includes on-demand access to U.K. reality series “Geordie Shore,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Paw Patrol,” among others.

“This is great news for our customers who can continue to enjoy Viacom’s diverse range of channels and content,” David Bouchier, chief digital entertainment officer at Virgin Media, said. “The inclusion of three brand new apps will give our customers greater flexibility to watch their favorite shows at a time that suits them.”

 

‘La Casa De Papel’ Tops Digital Originals Chart, Parrot Analytics Says

The Spanish limited series “Money Heist” (“La Casa De Papel”) vaulted to the No. 1 spot on the digital originals chart for the week ended April 14, a week after it debuted at No. 3.

The crime heist drama posted a 21% spike in popularity, according to Parrot Analytics’ Demand Expressions data.

Netflix bought global distribution rights to the series earlier this year and re-edited the original run of nine episodes into 15 different untitled episodes, released as two seasons. Netflix released the second season on April 6 with a runtime of 40 to 50 minutes instead of the original 70 minutes per episode.

“Stranger Things,” also a Netflix series, slipped to No. 2 on the top 10 digital originals chart, with demand dropping 17.9%.

A third Netflix digital original, “On My Block,” slipped to No. 3 as demand fell a modest 5.4%. One week earlier, the coming-of-age series – which debuted on Netflix on March 16 – shot up to No. 2 from No. 5, with a 12.5% demand increase.

New to the digital originals chart is “Trailer Park Boys,” which debuted at No. 8, on the heels of a new season bowing on Netflix on March 30.

Meanwhile, on the overall TV series chart, “Spongebob Squarepants” and “The Walking Dead” remain at No. 1 and No. 2 for the third consecutive week. Demand for “Spongebob” was only down a fraction of 1%, but demand for “The Walking Dead” was off 7.5%.

Moving up to No. 3 on the overall TV series chart was “American Idol,” with demand up 7.7%. A week before, “American Idol” posted an 8.4% increase in demand and moved up the chart to No. 4 from No. 5.

New to the top 10 the week ended April 14 was NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” bowing at No. 4. The series posted the highest bump in demand from the prior week, 63%. It’s prior-week ranking was No. 17.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States. Parrot Analytics uses a proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

 

‘Stranger Things’ the Week’s Top Digital Original, But Demand for ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ Soars

Netflix’s “Stranger Things” took the No. 1 spot on the top 10 digital originals chart for the week ended March 31, bumping Marvel’s “Jessica Jones” to No. 2 after three weeks in the top position, according to Parrot Analytics’ Demand Expressions data.

Digital original hits such as “Stranger Things,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Orange is the New Black” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” all registered an increase in demand from the prior week, Parrot data shows.

“13 Reasons Why” rose to No. 3 from No. 7 the prior week and No. 9 the week before, while “Orange is the New Black” slipped to No. 7 from No. 4, despite a modest 2.6% increase in demand.

Netflix also saw two new entries in the top five. “Santa Clarita Diet” moved up to No. on the digital originals chart from No. 9 the previous week, while “On My Block” jumped to No. 5 from No. 9. Both shows saw demand rise by about 30% from the prior week.

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has been largely absent from the top 10 as it finished its sophomore season. But with new episodes returning April 25, the dystopian series saw its demand spike 86% – fueled, no doubt, by the March 28 release of a season three trailer. “The Handmaid’s Tale” debuted on the chart at No. 10.

On the overall TV series chart, “Spongebob Squarepants” returned to No. 1 after ceding the top spot last week to AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” now at No. 2.

Media Play News has teamed with Parrot Analytics to provide readers with a weekly top 10 of the most popular digital original TV series in the United States. Parrot Analytics uses a proprietary metric called Demand Expressions, which measures global demand for TV content through a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.