ViacomCBS Streaming Push Sends Stock Tumbling Off Paramount Mountain

NEWS ANALYSIS — ViacomCBS is doing more than putting all of its eggs into the Paramount brand basket. The media giant is spending money it doesn’t have in an effort to match competing streaming services’ (i.e., Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max) content spend on original content.

The day after ViacomCBS senior management announced a corporate name change to Paramount and plans to increase content spending to $6 billion from $4 billion, investors responded by driving the share price down 20% in Feb. 16 premarket trading.

Analysts piled on their concerns despite the Paramount+ streaming platform adding 7.3 million subscribers in the quarter to bring its total sub count to 32.8 million since launching in 2014 as CBS All Access.

“While we can see how Paramount+ with its breadth of content, including sports, kids, general entertainment and news offerings, helps differentiate the streaming service from its peers, we have a hard time looking at the [direct-to-consumer] revenues and investments on a standalone basis,” analyst MoffettNathanson wrote in a note.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Indeed, streaming subscription revenue grew 84% year-over-year, reflecting strong sub growth from the company’s streaming subscription services. Streaming advertising revenue grew 26% year-over-year, driven by growth in advertising on Pluto TV and Paramount+.

At the same time, expenses related to over-the-top video distribution skyrocketed. Costs at Paramount’s TV production and pay-TV operations increased 38% and 32%, respectively, to $3.5 billion each. Revenue increased around 18% to $3.7 billion and $4 billion, respectively.

“We see another transitional cycle of ratcheted streaming investments at Paramount+, alongside Showtime Anytime and Pluto TV,” Tuna Amobi, analyst with CFRA Research, wrote in a separate note. “We see modest progress on the road to recovery from the pandemic disruption of the ads and TV/film content businesses.”

Paramount+ Posts Big Sub Gain as ViacomCBS Rebrands to Paramount

ViacomCBS during a Feb. 15 investor event announced its streaming service, Paramount+, added 7.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31) to bring its total sub count to 32.8 million.

The media company also announced a name change to Paramount Global, “or, more simply, Paramount,” according to a memo to employees from  CEO Bob Bakish and non-executive chair Shari Redstone.

Bob Bakish

The name change takes effect Feb. 16 and comes “one year since the spectacular launch of Paramount+ and two years since the successful merger of Viacom and CBS,” according to the memo. “In that time, we have shown the world what we knew from the start: that together, aligned around a shared vision and shared strategy, we create a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

ViacomCBS executives attributed the Paramount+ streaming gain to Clifford the Big Red Dog, the live-action family film that debuted on Paramount+ the same day it opened in theaters, as well as original films Mayor of Kingstown, the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” and South Park: Post-COVID. Execs also credited live events, NFL football games and bundling discounts.

Showtime also gained 2.1 million streaming subscribers to boost ViacomCBS’s total combined sub gain to 9.4 million, for a new total of 56 million.

Pluto TV, the company’s free, ad-supported streaming service, posted a 45% revenue gain to $362 million, while its monthly active user base rose by 10 million to more than 64 million.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In a financial report, ViacomCBS said total company revenue increased 16% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $8 billion, “reflecting growth across all revenue types.” Quarterly global streaming revenue was up 48% year-over-year to $1.3 billion, a gain the company attributes to subscription growth and a spike in advertising sales.

Profits, however, were down, with adjusted earnings of $557 million compared with $1.18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.  

“For more than a century, the name Paramount has been synonymous with great entertainment and industry leadership,” Bakish and Redstone wrote in the memo. “It’s part of our history, as pioneers of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But as Paramount+ has made clear, it’s also about our bright future. And, not least, it’s an idea: a promise to be the best. 

“As Paramount, our name will reflect who we are, what we aspire to be, and all that we stand for. It will help advance our strategy of harnessing all our strength and breadth in building the businesses of tomorrow. And it will capture the collective power of our global assets, from our amazing brands — CBS, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+, Pluto TV and more — to our global reach and our diverse audiences. All of which adds up to Paramount being the preeminent home to, and producers of, the world’s greatest content.”

ViacomCBS: ‘1883’ Most-Streamed Original Series on Paramount+

“Yellowstone” writer and director Taylor Sheridan has a new hit with “1883,” a “Yellowstone” prequel filled with gunfights and drama that debuted Dec. 19 on Paramount+ and the Paramount Network.

Without disclosing actual data, parent ViacomCBS said “1883,” which stars Sam Elliott, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Billy Bob Thornton and Isabel May, among others, was the most-watched original program on Paramount+.

In a marketing effort to drive Paramount+ viewership, the show’s initial two episodes were made available on the Paramount Network, with nearly 5 million people watching it.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“The results of ‘1883’s’ debut are truly phenomenal,” Tanya Giles, chief programming officer, ViacomCBS Streaming, said in a statement. “The day-one streaming numbers coupled with the results of the linear sampling effort, and social response from our audience show the tremendous promise for this series.”

Paramount+/Paramount Network previously debuted Sharidan’s “Mayor of Kingstown” on Nov. 14.

“The success of ‘1883’ is another proof-point of our unique model to leverage our linear platforms and franchise our biggest hits to supercharge Paramount+and it delivered big and shattered all records,” said Chris McCarthy, CEO of ViacomCBS Media Networks. “Given the tremendous viewership on Paramount Network, I’m confident our strategy of sampling on the Paramount Network will drive awareness and viewers to Paramount+.”

Paramount+ Names Top 2021 Drivers

Nine months after launch and rebranding, subscription streaming service Paramount+ is wrapping up 2021 with a look at what trended on the platform.

Parent ViacomCBS said it ended the most-recent fiscal period (Sept. 30) with 47 million streaming subs across Paramount+, Showtime OTT and Noggin, among other over-the-top video services. The Paramount Pictures namesake is projected to be profitable in a “couple years,” CEO Bob Bakish said on a recent investor call.

The top SVOD sub driver was live sports, such as “The NFL on CBS,” in addition to soccer properties UEFA and Concacaf.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Meanwhile, “Star Trek: Discovery,” which returned this year for its fourth season, was the most-watched original on the streamer. New series “iCarly,” which follows Carly Shay, the original influencer, and her friends navigating work, love and family now as adults, was the second-most-watched original series.

“Kids and family” was the most-watched content genre, with “reality” and “crime” coming in a close second and third, respectively.

“Mayor of Kingstown,” the new scripted series starring Jeremy Renner and Dianne Wiest, was the most-watched original series in its first 30 days and is the most-watched series on the service this quarter, which ends Dec. 31.

Sequel thriller A Quiet Place Part II, the horror sequel starring Emily Blunt, was the most-watched, female-led series or movie. “SpongeBob SquarePants,” an international franchise with a deep catalog, was the most-binged series.

“SEAL Team,” the military drama starring David Boreanaz, was the most-watched drama, followed by the increasingly popular original series “Evil.”

Feature film Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jason Mantzoukas, was the most-watched original movie on the platform. The film also earned the spot for most-watched trailer and most-streamed thriller. A Quiet Place Part II came in a close second for most-watched movie.

Paw Patrol: The Movie, the family film that streamed the same day it hit theaters, was the most-rewatched movie. Adele One Night Only, a special featuring a highly awaited performance by U.K. singer Adele and a candid interview in Oprah Winfrey’s rose garden, was the most-watched special.

South Park: Post COVID, the first of 14 specials coming to the service exclusively from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, was one of the most-watched comedies together with returning original, “Why Women Kill.”

“Rupaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” the reality competition series, was the most-streamed social reality series. iCarly’s “iStart Over,” the first episode in the reimagined series starring Miranda Cosgrove, was the most-downloaded episode to watch on-the-go.

To jumpstart consumer interest in the streamer, new consumers can try the platform for 30 days free by using the promo code “PEAKSALE.” The limited-time holiday promotion ends Dec. 31, 2021.

CEO Bob Bakish: Pluto TV Profitable, Paramount+ in a ‘Couple Years’

ViacomCBS’s aggressive foray into streaming video is nearing positive results to the fiscal bottom line, according to CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking Dec. 7 at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference 2021, Bakish said the media giant’s direct-to-consumer segment would realize $5 billion in revenue this year based on the numbers through the current fiscal quarter. While revenue is one thing, the bottom line is another.

Bob Bakish

And for that, Bakish had good news. Pluto TV, the ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television platform, is already turning a profit since ViacomCBS acquired the service for $340 million in 2019. Even better, the AVOD service is generating profit margins that rival broadcast.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

As to Paramount+, the erstwhile CBS All Access streaming service rebranded earlier this year, profitability remains a light at the end of a shortening tunnel. In November, the platform saw its best week (and month) ever in terms of new subscribers with concurrent streaming access to theatrical release Clifford the Big Red Dog.

“We see Q4 accelerating [sub growth]; in fact that acceleration will be greater than when that comment [was made] on the [Nov. 4 fiscal] call,” Bakish said. “[Paramount+] will take a couple of years, as it has for everyone, to get to profitability. But we look at our [projections] and we get to that as well. We’re clearly moving in the right direction.”

The CEO said exclusive content has been a sub driver, with Clifford the most-watched movie on Paramount+ thus far, followed by South Park: Post-COVID, which Bakish said set first-day streaming records on the platform.

“As everyone has probably heard by now, ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ was the No. 1 scripted original drama we’ve launched since the rebrand of [CBS All Access to Paramount+],” he said. “It was also the biggest scripted premiere on broadcast since ‘Yellowstone,’ reaching over 3 million viewers.”

Bakish said the streamer is also benefiting from the cross-platform distribution model moving primetime network TV shows to Paramount+ after initial broadcast episodes — a strategy employed on the series “SEAL Team.”

“We’ve seen that be a nice driver of subscribers,” he said.

ViacomCBS Inks Streaming Production/Distribution Deal With South Korea’s CJ ENM

ViacomCBS Dec. 7 announced a partnership with South Korean distributor CJ ENM that includes co-productions for original series and movies, content licensing and distribution across ViacomCBS’s and CJ ENM’s streaming services.

Paramount+ will debut in South Korea in 2022 as an exclusive bundle with TVING, CJ ENM’s streaming service, marking its first entry to the Asian market.

South Korea has become a hit factory for movies and TV series following the Oscar success of Parasite, and recent Netflix original series successes with “Squid Game” and “Hellbound.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Korean entertainment has become a cultural juggernaut with unprecedented demand, and CJ ENM is behind some of the biggest international hits that transcend borders, including Academy Award-winning film Parasite,” Dan Cohen, president of the global distribution group for ViacomCBS, said in a statement.

As part of the pact, Paramount Television Studios and CJ ENM/Studio Dragon will co-develop and co-produce English-language scripted series based on CJ ENM/Studio Dragon’s titles for Paramount+. The two companies will also co-develop and co-finance movies for theatrical and streaming releases with the plan to distribute one theatrical movie a year in various territories.

ViacomCBS and TVING will co-finance new Korean series for global distribution on Paramount+, with the streamer licensing Korean-language series from CJ ENM’s IP library.

Separately, ViacomCBS’s free ad-supported streaming television service Pluto TV will launch a dedicated CJ ENM branded channel on Dec. 14 featuring K-content for U.S. audiences.

“We are focused on the rapid expansion of Paramount+ in markets around the world,” said Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International. “Our strategic partnership with TVING enables us to accelerate Paramount+ subscriber growth while bringing more premium content to audiences in this important market.”

Paramount+ Bowing First Exclusive ‘South Park’ Special on Thanksgiving

ViacomCBS subscription streaming service Paramount+ will debut its first exclusive animated “South Park” special on Thanksgiving. South Park: Post COVID is the first of 14 specials (the second debuts in December) earmarked for the streamer as part of a one-off distribution deal with series creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

That’s because the first 24 seasons of the long-running comedy series are licensed to rival streamer HBO Max as part of ViacomCBS’s $500 million deal with WarnerMedia affording the latter next-day access to all new and catalog “South Park” episodes — including the future 25th and 26th seasons. The series is broadcast on ViacomCBS’s Comedy Central cable channel.

This past August, Stone and Parker inked a separate $900 million deal with ViacomCBS for so-called “South Park” specials streaming exclusively on Paramount+.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Bringing that [South Park] fandom over to Paramount+ will be very exciting for us,” Tanya Giles, chief programming officer of ViacomCBS Streaming, told media at the Television Critics Association’s 2021 Tour.

Giles said the agreement is to give Stone and Parker the opportunity to take the “South Park” characters and storylines in different directions. Indeed, “South Park: Post COVID” takes place nearly 40 years in the future with the show’s characters contemplating middle age and worse.

“The ability to do that at Paramount+ in a made-for-streaming movie format was just a different opportunity for them that they hadn’t considered, but they jumped in and they brought us the idea of having these longer stories to tell,” Giles said.

The specials come as Paramount+ attempts to broaden its subscriber base in the U.S. and abroad — the latter via distribution deals with Comcast’s European Sky satellite operator in 2022.

ViacomCBS said Paramount+ added 1 million sign-ups in the past week, due in part to the streamer’s debut of drama series “Mayor of Kingstown,” and concurrent theatrical/streaming access to Paramount Pictures’ Clifford the Big Red Dog.

ViacomCBS ended the most-recent fiscal period with 47 million streaming subscribers, which includes Paramount+, Showtime OTT, Noggin and other platforms.

ViacomCBS Completes Majority Stake Acquisitions of Fox TeleColombia and Estudios TeleMexico

ViacomCBS Nov. 23 announced that its ViacomCBS Networks International unit closed the acquisition of a majority stake in the Spanish language content producer Fox TeleColombia & Estudios TeleMexico from The Walt Disney Company. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Fox TeleColombia & Estudios TeleMexico will bolster ViacomCBS’s Spanish-language content production capabilities and expand ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS) to capitalize on significant content demand on its global streaming platforms, Paramount+ and Pluto TV, and its linear networks around the world.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

VIS will operate Fox TeleColombia & Estudios TeleMexico as a collaborative partnership with the founding family. Samuel Duque Duque will lead the business. Fox TeleColombia & Estudios TeleMexico will fall under the direction of Juan “JC” Acosta, president of ViacomCBS International Studios and Networks Americas.

ViacomCBS Ups Scott Mills to CEO of BET

ViacomCBS Nov. 22 announced the promotion of Scott Mills from president to CEO of Black Entertainment Television (BET).

During his four-year tenure as president, Mills spearheaded changes within BET for future success in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Since his appointment in 2018, Mills expanded the BET brand well beyond the framework of a traditional cable network with the launches of BET+, a premium subscription streaming service and BET Studios, a studio venture providing equity ownership to black content creators.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Mills was instrumental inking partnerships with Tyler Perry, Lena Waithe, Kenya Barris and Lee Daniels, among others.

“Under Scott’s leadership, BET has reached new heights with continued commercial success and profound cultural impact during a period of immense industry and social change,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said in a statement.

Under Mills’ leadership, BET will continue to build upon its 40-year legacy of entertaining black audiences and its commitment to entertain, engage and empower the African-American community.

Philanthropy has always been central to BET’s mission, however Mills’ dedicated social impact strategies have inspired company- and industry-wide change. One such example is Content for Change, a multi-pronged initiative that leverages data to effect societal change and combat bias, that was recently adopted across the entire ViacomCBS organization.

Whether investing in black communities, discovering, and fostering black creatives and talent, or rallying black leaders across business, media and entertainment to raise nearly $20 million in COVID-19 relief to support black communities hit the hardest by the virus, BET remains an industry leader in premium content and steadfast in its duty to the community.

ViacomCBS: ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ Top-Streamed Movie on Paramount+

Paramount Pictures’ live-action movie Clifford the Big Red Dog was No. 2 at last weekend’s domestic box office with $24 million in global ticket sales. The first theatrical release based on the popular children’s book series is simultaneously streaming on Paramount+, and quickly became the most-streamed original movie on the platform, according to corporate parent ViacomCBS.

The media giant said the movie (along with a marketing campaign with T-Mobile) helped generate 1 million Paramount+ sign-ups in the past week. Global SVOD subscribers topped 47 million in the most-recent fiscal period when including Showtime OTT and Noggin, among other platforms.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Clifford the Big Red Dog has wagged his way into the hearts and watchlists of Paramount+ subscribers,” Tanya Giles, chief programming officer of ViacomCBS Streaming, said in a statement. “The film’s incredible performance on Paramount+ speaks to the power of entertainment for families to enjoy together, and we look forward to continuing to bring our subscribers more exclusive family-friendly offerings.”

Although ViacomCBS isn’t releasing actual viewership numbers, “Clifford” has apparently bested previous original movies streaming on Paramount+ and released theatrically at the same time, including Paw Patrol: The Movie, Infinite and Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin.