Pluto TV: CBS, Viacom Merger Puts AVOD ‘Light Years’ Ahead of Schedule

The re-merger of Viacom and former subsidiary CBS Corp. should help accelerate worldwide distribution of Pluto TV, according to the ad-supported video unit. Viacom acquired Pluto earlier this year for $340 million.

“Today, we are excited to celebrate the union of two major media powerhouses — Viacom and CBS. As a part of the newly established @ViacomCBS media empire, Pluto TV has now jumped light years ahead, accelerating our mission to entertain the planet.” Pluto TV (@PlutoTV) tweeted Dec. 5.

The union presents the combined companies with three branded over-the-top video services in CBS All Access, Showtime OTT and Pluto — the latter ad-supported.

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When CBS launched All Access ($5.99) and Showtime OTT ($10.99), it projected 16 million standalone subscribers by 2022. That tally was reached through the third quarter of the current fiscal year, ended Sept. 30.

Pluto TV in July claimed more than 18 million monthly viewers across more than 28 content channels.

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“As the video marketplace continues to segment, we see an opportunity to support the ecosystem in creating products at a broad range of price points, including free,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said in the statement earlier this year.

Last month, Pluto began incorporating new channels from CBS Interactive, including ET Live and CBSN.

“We’re thrilled to be bringing more of our ad-supported streaming channels to the platform with today’s launch of our entertainment news channel, ET Live, and CBSN’s local news channels for New York and Los Angeles,” said Sarah Jeon, EVP of business development at CBS Interactive.

Pluto is also launching curated video channels for third-party clients and events. In September at the Advertising Week confab in New York, Pluto delivered a custom channel that targeted the event’s 100,000 attendees.

The Advertising Week pop-up channel showcased Pluto TV’s ability to create custom channels, a feature that’s appealing to advertisers and publishers seeking to reach fragmented and niche audiences.

The channel underscored the versatility of streaming TV, which Pluto CEO Tom Ryan claims can be programmed for optimal utility without the restrictions of traditional linear networks.

“In many ways, [Pluto] drew inspiration from the things cable TV had done right in terms of creating these interest-based channels that take the work out of entertainment for customers,” Ryan told a separate media confab.

 

Viacom, CBS Close Corporate Re-Merger

ViacomCBS Dec. 4 formally announced the completion of the merger between CBS Corp. and former corporate parent Viacom — the latter also owning Paramount Pictures, MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, Pluto TV and Comedy Central.

On Jan. 1, 2006, Viacom spun off subsidiary CBS into a freestanding television company led by CEO Les Moonves, who was forced out in 2018 following allegations by several women of inappropriate workplace behavior.

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“This is a historic moment that brings together two iconic companies to form one of the world’s most important content producers and providers,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement. “Through the combination of CBS’s and Viacom’s complementary assets, capabilities and talented teams, ViacomCBS will create and deliver premium content for its own platforms and for others, while providing innovative solutions for advertisers and distributors globally.”

Building on a collection of franchises and partnerships, ViacomCBS will be home to more than 140,000 premium TV episodes and 3,600 film titles, with global production capabilities and more than $13 billion in annual content investment.

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The company will account for 22% of TV viewership in the U.S. and hold the highest share of broadcast and cable viewing across key audience demographics, with strength in all categories, including News, Sports, General Entertainment, Pop Culture, Comedy, Music and Kids.

Through the strength and scale of these assets, ViacomCBS claims it will be well-equipped to maximize the value of its content for its own platforms and for others, as it meets the growing global demand for third-party premium content. The company’s content scale will support a robust streaming strategy, including ViacomCBS’s own suite of advertising and subscription-based offerings.

In addition, the company’s broad reach, extensive intellectual property portfolio and expertise in advanced marketing solutions will enable it to strengthen its partnerships with distributors and advertisers globally.

Pluto TV Launching 24-Hour ‘Awesomeness TV’ Channel in the U.K.

Viacom’s ad-supported video-on-demand service Pluto TV, is launching a 24-hour edition of Awesomeness TV in the United Kingdom on Dec. 6.

Pluto, which Viacom acquired earlier this year for $340 million, has become integral in Viacom’s global over-the-top video aspirations, currently offering 65 channels of content across multiple genres.

Awesomeness TV currently streams in the United States targeting Gen Z audience with reality-based programming such as “My Dream Quinceañera”  and competition-themed “DIY Dash,” among other shows.

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“The [SVOD] market has changed drastically, especially in the last two years,” Olivier Jollet, managing director of Pluto TV in Europe, told Variety.  “We’re seeing from the user point of view that the willingness to pay is not unlimited. People will take two, three or four services … but not 10.”

Pluto TV, with 150 content partners, features ad-supported movies: Pluto TV Movies 1 & 2and Drama, Comedy, Family, Indies, Romance, Documentaries, Thrillers, Cult Films, Horror 24/7, Action Movies, Flicks of Fury, The Asylum, and Black Cinema.

CBS, Viacom Merger to Close Dec. 4

CBS Corp. and Viacom have announced that their pending merger is expected to close after market hours on Dec. 4.

Immediately following the closing, the combined company will be renamed ViacomCBS Inc., and it is expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on Dec. 5 under the new ticker symbols “VIACA” and “VIAC,” according to the companies.

As part of the listing, ViacomCBS will also become eligible for future inclusion in the Nasdaq 100 index.

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Speaking last August with CNBC, Robert Bakish, current Viacom CEO and future head of ViacomCBS, said the combined media company would offer “unmatched scale” with 140,000 television catalog episodes and 3,600 movies, including content from Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios.

The broadcast network’s early move toward direct-to-consumer content distribution with CBS All Access and Showtime OTT and Viacom’s acquisition of ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV has well-positioned the new media company in the streaming video era, he said.

“[That’s] not something people have talked about a lot [regarding the merger],” he said.  “You unite those two together and you really have a D-to-C ecosystem — very compelling — both with substantial, millions of users.”

More ViacomCBS Execs Announced

CBS and Viacom Nov. 18 announced additional senior appointments to ViacomCBS corporate leadership, effective upon closing of the merger.

Alex Berkett, SVP, corporate development and strategy, Viacom, will become EVP, corporate development and strategy, leading ViacomCBS’ efforts to identify, pursue and execute strategic growth opportunities, including acquisitions, partnerships, investments and joint ventures, across all of ViacomCBS’ businesses and geographies.

Nancy Phillips will serve as EVP, chief people officer, and lead the ViacomCBS global human resources organization. Phillips joins the company from Nielsen, where she served as chief human resources officer.

Marva Smalls, EVP, global head of inclusion strategy, Viacom, will serve as EVP, global head of inclusion of ViacomCBS, driving initiatives and fostering partnerships that promote and advance diversity and inclusion for ViacomCBS enterprise-wide both with internal and external stakeholders globally. In addition, she will retain her public affairs responsibilities for Nickelodeon as EVP, public affairs, kids and family entertainment brands, ViacomCBS Media Networks.

Jose Tolosa, chief transformation officer of Viacom, will expand his responsibilities as EVP, chief transformation officer. In this role, he will continue to oversee integration efforts for the combined company, with a focus on accelerating the evolution of its businesses. Tolosa will also lead ViacomCBS strategic planning, helping to set the company’s strategic priorities and support cross-company projects for senior management. Additionally, he will oversee the Global Business Services and Global Sourcing divisions, which will expand their scope, providing enterprise-wide services and helping drive synergies.

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The leadership announcements follow the previously announced appointments of Christa D’Alimonte as EVP, general counsel and secretary; Anthony DiClemente as EVP, investor relations; DeDe Lea as EVP, global public policy and government relations; Julia Phelps as EVP, chief communications and corporate marketing officer, and Christina Spade as Executive Vice President, CFO.

“We now have in place the entire senior management team for ViacomCBS, ensuring we will hit the ground running when the transaction closes in just a few weeks,” stated Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon closing. “Working together, these leaders will help us realize the full potential of our considerable assets and competitive strengths.”

The merger of Viacom and CBS remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by early December.

Reports: Netflix Picks Up Rights to New ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ Sequel

Netflix has licensed rights to a new Beverly Hills Cop sequel from Paramount, according to reports.

The fourth installment in the series will star Eddie Murphy and be produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the reports stated. The first three movies came out in 1984, 1987 and 1994, and all featured Murphy as a freewheeling Detroit cop.

Netflix this month also expanded its deal with another Viacom property, Nickelodeon. It’s a multiyear output deal to produce original animated feature films and television series for kids and families based both on the Nickelodeon library of characters as well as new IP.

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Paramount Ups Fiscal-Year 2019 Home Entertainment Revenue

It may be a subscription streaming video future, but sales of packaged and digital media remain strong for Paramount Home Entertainment.

The division generated $646 million in fiscal-2019 (ended Sept. 30) revenue, which was up almost 4% from revenue of $622 million during the previous-year period.

Domestic home entertainment revenue in the year surged 11% to $425 million, from $383 million the previous year. International sales dropped 8% to $221 million, from $240 million.

In the quarter, home entertainment revenue declined 3% to $153 million, from $158 million in the previous-year period. Domestic sales dropped 2% to $101 million, from $103 million. International sales dropped 4% to $52 million, compared with $54 million.

The top-selling Paramount title in the year was Bumblebee.

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Theatrical revenue plummeted 72% to $94 million, from $336 million the previous year. Domestic revenue fell 56% to $48 million, from $109 million. International sales dropped 80% to $46 million, compared with $230 million. The theatrical revenue declined reflected the comparison to Mission: Impossible — Fallout in the prior year.

Licensing revenue increased by 5% for the full year and 26% for the quarter, driven by growth in TV production. Ancillary revenue grew 33% for the full year, driven by higher licensing fees from international theme parks and a new music rights agreement

Paramount has delivered three straight years of year-over-year adjusted operating income improvement and achieved full year profitability for the first time in four years.

“It’s a testament to the strength of our strategy and content slate,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

Pluto TV Adds News, Entertainment Channels

Viacom-owned AVOD service Pluto TV and CBS Interactive announced three additional channels launched Nov. 13 on the free streaming service.

Pluto TV viewers now have access to live news, updates, analysis and reporting from the entertainment news brand ET Live and live local news streams from CBSN New York and CBSN Los Angeles.

The new additions join existing CBS Interactive properties and longstanding Pluto TV media partners CBSN and CNET.

“CBS Interactive has long been an integral partner for Pluto TV. We are excited to continue to grow this relationship and extend new value to the Pluto TV audience together,” Jeff Shultz, EVP and chief business officer, Pluto TV, said in a statement.

“In addition to our previously launched CBSN and CNET channels on Pluto TV, we’re thrilled to be bringing more of our ad-supported streaming channels to the platform with today’s launch of our entertainment news channel, ET Live, and CBSN’s local news channels for New York and Los Angeles,” Sarah Jeon, EVP of business development, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

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ET Live (channel 120) is a 24-hour streaming network dedicated to all things entertainment, tapping into the legacy of “Entertainment Tonight’s” brand.

CBSN New York (channel 237) was the first of CBS’s local direct-to-consumer streaming news services in major markets across the country. CBSN New York features live streams of WCBS and WLNY’s regularly scheduled newscasts and additional weekday one-hour newscasts at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. In addition, CBSN New York provides live continuous coverage of breaking news events with programming led by WCBS and WLNY anchors and reporters as well as an extensive library of local news content that will be available for on-demand viewing.

CBSN Los Angeles (channel 238) features 24-hour anchored programming, coverage of live breaking news events in the region as well as an extensive library of local news content that will be available for on-demand viewing. CBSN Los Angeles’ daily lineup includes live streams of KCBS (CBS 2) and KCAL (KCAL 9), regularly scheduled newscasts and additional weekday one-hour newscasts at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. CBSN Los Angeles programming is led by CBS 2 and KCAL 9 anchors and reporters.

The new programming and channel collaboration with CBS Interactive joins Pluto TV’s more than 200 live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from major studios, networks, publishers and digital media companies.

Viacom and CBS Announce Leadership After Pending Merger

CBS and Viacom Nov. 11 announced senior appointments for content and digital leadership of ViacomCBS effective upon closing of the merger.

The combined company’s library will comprise 140,000-plus TV episodes and 3,600-plus film titles, according to a joint press release. ViacomCBS will also have more than 750 series ordered or in production, as well as a major Hollywood film studio, Paramount Pictures. The combined company will have a content spend of more than $13 billion — one of the largest in the industry, according to the joint release.

“ViacomCBS will be one of the largest premium content creators in the world, with the capacity to produce content for both our own platforms and for others,” Bob Bakish, president and CEO, Viacom, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon close, said in a statement. “This talented team of content leaders will work together to ensure we realize the full power of our brands, our deep relationships with the creative community and our intellectual property to drive our growth as a combined company.”

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Content leaders, who will manage the creative and business operations of the company’s brands and help assess how best to distribute programming include:

  • Jim Gianopulos, who will oversee Filmed Entertainment, continuing as chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, a role that includes oversight of Paramount Animation, Paramount Features, Paramount Players and Paramount TV;
  • Chris McCarthy, president of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo, who will serve as president of entertainment and youth brands, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks — adding Comedy Central, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel and TV Land brands and their respective content studios to his current portfolio of MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo;
  • David Nevins, chief creative officer, CBS, and chairman and CEO, Showtime Networks, who will oversee CBS Television Studios, the CBS Television Network’s Entertainment division, the Showtime Networks and Pop, as well as the programming of CBS All Access (He will also have oversight of CBS’ interest in The CW, a joint venture between CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment. In addition, Nevins will oversee BET, which will continue to be led by Scott Mills as President of BET);
  • Carolyn Kroll Reidy, who will lead the company’s publishing assets, continuing in her role as president and CEO of Simon & Schuster; and
  • Brian Robbins, president of Nickelodeon, who will oversee the company’s kids and young adult-focused offerings as president, kids and family entertainment, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks (In addition to Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nicktoons and Nickelodeon Studios, he will now oversee Awesomeness, which he co-founded and was acquired by Viacom in 2018).

 

Joe Ianniello, as previously announced, will serve as chairman and CEO of CBS, overseeing CBS-branded assets such as the CBS Television Network (including CBS Entertainment, CBS News, and CBS Sports), CBS Television Studios, CBS Interactive (including CBS All Access) and CBS Television Stations.

ViacomCBS will also form a new Content Council, comprising the content leaders across the company and chaired by Nevins, to ensure these leaders and other senior executives are working together to maximize the use of IP and talent relationships across the combined company.

ViacomCBS’ portfolio of streaming assets will include CBS All Access and Showtime, which deliver premium, branded content live and on demand to millions of subscribers; Pluto TV, the leading free, advertising-supported streaming TV service in the United States; and targeted niche products such as BET+, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ, ET Live and Noggin.

“Our content scale will support our streaming strategy, which will build on the rapidly scaling advertising and subscription-based products we already have in the market,” Bakish said in a statement. “The executives we announced today bring complementary and deep experience in both subscription and ad-supported streaming businesses, and will work together to create a differentiated streaming ecosystem in the market.”

ViacomCBS digital leaders include:

  • Marc DeBevoise, president and COO, CBS Interactive, who will serve as chief digital Officer, ViacomCBS, and president and CEO, CBS Interactive, providing overall leadership for the combined company’s technology and digital operations across its broad range of digital assets, including its subscription, live and vertical ad-supported direct-to-consumer streaming services and major internet properties (His team will also be responsible for Viacom Digital Studios as well as its partnerships with technology, digital video and social platforms. In addition, he will continue to lead CBS Interactive and its digital businesses, including those of the CBS Television Network and CNET Media Group and its portfolio of streaming services including CBS All Access, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ and ET Live.);
  • Kelly Day, president, Viacom Digital Studios, who will continue to lead the digital content strategy and initiative to create and expand original programming and branded content across leading and emerging social platforms (In this role, reporting to DeBevoise, she will look to expand this initiative from brands including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET across the combined company’s content portfolio.);
  • Phil Wiser, CTO, CBS, who will serve as CTO for the combined company, reporting to DeBevoise, and will be responsible for the global technology strategy, shared services, operations and transformation for ViacomCBS; and
  • Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, who will continue to lead Pluto TV and will oversee all facets of the company’s business;

 

The merger is expected to close by early December, according to the press release.

Anti-Piracy Group Adds Viacom, Comcast

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, an online anti-piracy coalition whose members include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and major studios, has added Comcast and Viacom as members.

While NBC Universal and Paramount Pictures were already ACE members, the addition of their parent companies will strengthen ACE’s comprehensive approach to disrupting a piracy ecosystem that harms creators, according to the group. Comcast is the first internet service provider (ISP) to join ACE.

“We are excited to have Comcast and Viacom join ACE,” Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said in a statement. “As the parent companies of two of our original members, they have been supporters of our efforts and numerous successes, but now as members, they will strengthen the legal and operational work we’re able to do to reduce the threat of piracy and support creators.”

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ACE was founded in June 2017 by 30 companies who sought to expand ongoing, cooperative efforts to reduce the threat and prevalence of online piracy.

Last year alone, there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated films and television shows and 21.4 billion total visits to streaming piracy sites worldwide. This conservatively costs $29.2 billion to as much as $71 billion annually in lost domestic revenues, according to a recent study from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center.

Piracy also harms consumers. One-third of pirate sites target them with malware that can lead to a range of problems, including identify theft and financial loss, according to a report by Digital Citizens Alliance.

Since its inception, ACE has successfully litigated against piracy device sellers and providers of unauthorized content and their operators such as Vader Streams, SetTVNow, Tickbox and Dragon Box, and has collaborated with law enforcement investigations and actions around the world. ACE draws upon the global antipiracy resources of the MPAA in concert with the internal antipiracy expertise of the coalition members.

With the additions, the full roster of ACE members includes Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corp., Channel 5, Comcast, Constantin Film, Discovery, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telefe, Telemundo, Televisa, Univision Communications Inc., Viacom, Village Roadshow, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment.