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.
“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.
Viacom International Media Networks has promoted Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of VIMN Americas and EVP of Nickelodeon International, to president of OTT International and Viacom International Studios (VIS).
The move signals Viacom’s increasing importance of over-the-top video distribution and studio businesses worldwide. Gazzolo reports to David Lynn, president & CEO of VIMN.
In this new role, Gazzolo will focus on accelerating the rollout of Pluto TV across international markets, starting with a major launch across Latin America in early 2020.
In addition, Gazzolo will further establish VIMN’s D2C products in partnership with distributors. He will also be responsible for creating an integrated Viacom International Studios operation, managing original content creation assets across ViacomCBS internationally.
Gazzolo will be responsible for establishing Viacom’s international business strategies, product offerings and operations for these critical growth areas of the business in all international markets.
He will work with Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer for ViacomCBS and CEO of CBS Interactive and Tom Ryan, CEO and Co-founder of Pluto TV to expand the company’s digital strategy to the international market.
As president of VIMN Americas, Gazzolo is credited for driving the extraordinary growth of VIMN’s business in the region and was responsible for the expansion of the business through the acquisition of Telefe and Porta dos Fundos. During his tenure, Gazzolo led the transformation of VIMN Americas, including establishing its non-linear presence through innovative multiplatform products and services such as Paramount + and Noggin and working with the Pluto TV team to launch 11 Pluto Latino channels to the US Hispanic market earlier this year – which has since grown to 22 channels and 4,000 hours of Spanish and Portuguese content.
Under Gazzolo’ s leadership, Viacom International Studios (VIS) was launched following the 2016 acquisitions of Telefe and then Porta dos Fundos. Synergies recognized by those acquisitions enabled the launch of VIS first in the Americas in 2018 and then in the U.K., Europe and Asia in 2019. In 2019 VIS Americas revenues grew by 57%.
“Pier is a uniquely dynamic executive and has an unrivalled track record of growing revenues for the entire VIMN ecosystem,” Lynn said in a statement. “Pier’s leadership in the streaming and OTT space has driven subscriber growth and established VIMN as a key player in OTT in the region partnering with MVPD’s and mobile operators. I’m confident that Pier will apply the same vision and rigor to launching these key business lines for ViacomCBS internationally as we continue to super serve our distribution partners.”
Separately, Juan (“JC”) Acosta, currently EVP, and COO of VIMN Americas, will be promoted to president of VIMN Americas, effective Jan. 3rd, 2020.
“JC’s understanding of the entertainment industry, strategic expertise and deep knowledge of both VIMN and the international television market make him ideally suited for his new role,” Lynn said. “JC’s tenure with VIMN and impact on the business to date, will ensure both a seamless leadership transition and a continued growth trajectory for our Americas operations. JC played a key role in the transformation of the VIMN Americas business, integrating and managing Telefe and Porta dos Fundos, and is ideally equipped to take VIMN Americas through its next stage of growth.”
In his new role, Acosta will be responsible for VIMN operations for Latin America, spanning Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, as well as Canada and the US Hispanic market. He will be tasked with the ongoing expansion of VIMN’s portfolio and products in the region, including its multiplatform business, global studio and content distribution and licensing efforts and TV channels (MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Paramount Channel, and Telefe, Argentina’s leading free-to-air broadcaster) and digital portfolio (including Porta Dos Fundos).
JC has been with VIMN for 13 years, having first joined the company in 2007 as VP and CFO of VIMN Americas. Since that time, Acosta has served in a variety of roles leading to his current role as EVP Chief Financial Officer & Executive in Charge of Production. Acosta has worked across a range of areas of the VIMN Americas business and was a key partner to Gazzolo, as COO of the America business as they designed and implemented the integration of Telefe and Porta dos Fundos.
Viacom International Media Networks is set to expand the Paramount+ streaming video platform to Latin America.
The SVOD service, which first launched in Scandinavia (in response to HBO Nordics in 2017 and later in Central and Eastern Europe – known as Paramount Play), will become available May 1 in Brazil in a partnership with telecom NET, followed by wider distribution through a mobile deal with America Movil.
Paramount+ affords Viacom and Paramount Pictures international streaming distribution of more than 150 movies and original TV shows, including “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, “The Handmaids’ Tale” (available exclusively on Hulu in the U.S.), in addition to branded content from MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.
“By forging partnerships with the world’s leading operators and distributors, we are able to bring Viacom’s premium content to new global audiences,” David Lynn, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, said in a media statement. “As the media landscape continues to evolve, we will aggressively innovate to expand our partner offerings, including Paramount+, across our massive global footprint.”
Indeed, while Paramount+ represents Viacom’s aggressive strategy to close the digital divide with rival studios, following the recent purchase of Pluto TV, Viacom is fortifying the ad-supported VOD platform with proprietary and third-party content.
Pluto TV just announced a new channel launch featuring content from WarnerMedia’s CNN – which itself is planning an OTT video product in 2020.
“At a time when news cycles are never-ending, in a world that is constantly evolving, CNN’s coveted daily reporting and in-depth features are perfect for our audience to be informed, with immediacy, accuracy and ease,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Pluto TV’s mission to ‘entertain the planet’ also means informing the planet of what is going on in the world, and there is no better partner than the most trusted name in news.”
Viacom International Media Networks has expanded the “Paramount Play” branded subscription streaming video service into Poland through pay-TV operator Orange Poland and telecom operator Cyfrowy Polsat – the latter with about 3.5 million subscribers.
Play operates in Scandinavia and other Eastern European countries.
The Play service, which features Paramount Pictures catalog movies and TV shows, including original production, “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, in addition to MTV, Comedy Central and local content “Warsaw Shore,” “Ex on the Beach Poland,” “Drunk History Poland” and “Comedy Club,” among others.
“We are delighted that these partnerships with leading distributors Polsat and Orange enables us to significantly scale our roll out of Paramount Play in our largest [central east Europe] market,” Elena Balmont, SVP, interim GM, VIMN Central Eastern Europe and Israel, said ion a statement. “This SVOD proposition brings our collaboration with partners to the next level, while diversifying our footprint with consumers. We look forward to further rollouts.”
With the BBC and ITV looking to expand subscription streaming service BritBox from the United States to the United Kingdom, Viacom reportedly wants in on the action.
Launched in 2017 in the United States, BritBox features more than 2,000 hours of British-themed original TV series and movies for $7 monthly fee.
Speaking at the Connected TV World Summit 2019 in London, Dan Fahy, VP, commercial and content distribution, Viacom International Media Networks, said the worldwide distribution arm of Viacom was keen on participating the BritBox rollout through its Channel 5 subsidiary.
Channel 5 is a British linear broadcast network launched in 1997 by VIMN featuring original and third-party content.
“We’re talking to ITV about it,” Fahy told a panel as reported by Advanced-Television.com. “I know there are different views about the need for it, but fundamentally, in the U.K. there’s a huge appetite for British programming … and Channel 5 produces a lot of this great programming.”
Indeed, with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video producing and streaming prodigious quantities of British-centric programming, the globl appetite for the content – notably Prime Video’s “Tin Star,” starring Tim Roth, is not abating.
In the U.S., AMC Network’s Acorn TV has been streaming British-themed content since 2011. The platform surpassed 800,000 subscribers last summer when combined with AMC’s Urban Movie Channel.
“There is a segment for some of the great British programming to come together in a frictionless, on-demand environment,” Fahy said.
Viacom International Media Networks Feb. 18 announced that MTV U.K. is partnering with Facebook to launch an interactive game show on the social media’s over-the-top Watch video platform.
Dubbed “ MTV Stax,” the game streams three times weekly and is free to play featuring contestants answering questions about pop culture. Episode winners qualify for a chance to win a large cash prize. The show is hosted by MTV news presenters Tinea Taylor and Tyler West, among others.
“We are always exploring new and innovative ways to engage and entertain our audiences, so we’re excited to be working with Facebook Watch as one of their first U.K. launch partners to develop‘MTV Stax,’”Joanna Wells, VP digital content, youth and entertainment at VIMN, said in a statement. “We know that there’s a great appetite at the moment for live interactive quiz shows and our fans are tapped into popular culture, so this feels like a very natural fit for MTV.”
Facebook Watch launched its own interactive U.K. game show, “Confetti,” last November.
Earlier this month MTV launched its first SVOD mobile streaming app in the U.K. targeting the younger mobile demo (ages 18-34 years old), with additional distribution planned through regional telecoms.
Viacom may be playing catch-up in over-the-top video distribution in the United States, but across the Atlantic Viacom International Media Networks is set to launch MTV’s first SVOD mobile streaming app.
Dubbed “MTV Play,” the £3.99 monthly service targets the younger mobile demo (ages 18-34 years old), with additional distribution planned through U.K. telecoms.
“MTV Play puts the full MTV content experience directly into the hands of young people for the first time in a way that is accessible and affordable,” Arran Tindall, SVP, commercial and content distribution at VIMN, said in a statement.
Tindall said the app is not a replacement for traditional distributors such as Sky, Virgin Media and BT, who he said do an “excellent job” bringing MTV to younger audiences across the U.K.
“But we know there is a segment of younger potential MTV fans who sit beyond the basic pay-TV bundles,” Tindall said.
MTV Play will offer TVOD options, including catch-up episodes “Geordie Shore,” “Teen Mom U.K.,” “Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club” and“The Charlotte Show,” as well as catalog series such as “The Hills,” “The Valleys” and “Jersey Shore.” It will also feature short-form digital original series, including“Show Us Ur Phone,”“What the Yuck”and “MTV Meets”.
“MTV’s reality and music content continues to resonate incredibly strongly with young audiences in the UK and we believe there’s a further appetite for an app like this,” said Dan Fahy, VP, commercial and content distribution, VIMN UKNEE. “We’re speaking with telco providers and other platforms about how they can make MTV Play available to their subscribers, which will form an important part of our distribution strategy alongside D2C.”