ViacomCBS CEO: ‘Paramount+’ Rebranding Gives New Life to Studio

ViacomCBS’ move to rebrand subscription streaming video service CBS All Access to Paramount+ in 2021 could be the spark that returns the famed Paramount Pictures studio to global prominence, CEO Bob Bakish told an investor event.

Speaking Sept. 15 on the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Bakish said the Paramount name resonates globally, giving the rebooted CBS All Access service greater appeal as it is supersized for worldwide access to compete against Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.

“It’s a brand with a history of innovation, it’s over a century old, and a legacy of producing great content,” Bakish said. “It’s a brand that has always brought people together to enjoy the entertainment experience. Importantly, it’s a brand that also leverages ViacomCBS’ global position with near universal brand recognition. The fact is consumers all over the world know the Paramount brand, and they love it. So it’s a natural choice for us.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Indeed, Paramount could use the jolt. The studio is the fifth oldest in the world, the second oldest in the U.S. after Universal Pictures, and the only major still headquartered in Los Angeles. In addition to select Transformers movies, the studio’s biggest franchise (six movies) in recent years has been Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise, generating a combined $1.15 billion at the global box office. The studio has also fared well with Sonic the Hedgehog, A Quiet Place and television production of “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner.

“It is really the beginning of an exciting new chapter for one of the most storied brands in Hollywood,” Bakish said.

CBS All Access Rebranding as ‘Paramount+’ in 2021

ViacomCBS Sept. 15 announced that its pending global streaming video platform will be called “Paramount+” and take over CBS All Access in early 2021 as part of the service’s expansion to feature content from ViacomCBS’s portfolio of broadcast, news, sports and entertainment brands. ViacomCBS will also bring Paramount+ to international markets with an initial debut in AustraliaLatin America and the Nordics in 2021.

“Paramount is an iconic and storied brand beloved by consumers all over the world, and it is synonymous with quality, integrity and world-class storytelling,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “With Paramount+, we’re excited to establish one global streaming brand in the broad-pay segment that will draw on the sheer breadth and depth of the ViacomCBS portfolio to offer an extraordinary collection of content for everyone to enjoy.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Upon launch, Paramount+ will feature several original series, including “The Offer,” a scripted limited event series from Paramount Television Studios, based on Oscar-winning producer Al Ruddy’s never-revealed experiences of making The Godfather. The 10-episode event series is written and executive produced by Michael Tolkin (“Escape at Dannemora” and “The Player”). Ruddy will also serve as executive producer, and Emmy-winning producer Leslie Greif (“Hatfields & McCoys”) will executive produce and be a writer on the series.

“Lioness” is a spy drama created by Taylor Sheridan (“Yellowstone”) with Sheridan, Jill WagnerDavid GlasserDavid Hutkin, and Bob Yari set to executive produce. Based on a real-life CIA program, the series follows a young Marine recruited to befriend the daughter of a terrorist to bring the organization down from within. The series is produced by Paramount Network and 101 Studios.

The platform will also offer a reimagination of the Emmy-nominated series “Behind the Music,” titled “MTV’s Behind the Music — The Top 40,” which will look at the 40 biggest artists of all time, through their voices and their eyes. The series will be produced by Creature Films and MTV Studios.

“The Real Criminal Minds” is a true crime docuseries based on the long-running CBS television series “Criminal Minds,” and produced by XG Productions in association with CBS Television Studios and ABC Signature.

The service is also developing a revival of “The Game,” as part of BET’s programming on Paramount+ from CBS Television Studios and Grammnet Productions.

The new series join the Paramount’s previously announced plans for “Kamp Koral,” an original children’s series from Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants” franchise, and the service’s role as the exclusive SVOD home to The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run in early 2021. Additional new original content will be announced ahead of launch.

This programming will join CBS All Access’ existing offering of more than 20,000 episodes and movies from BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and more, as well as exclusive original series including “The Good Fight,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Tooning Out The News,” “No Activity,” “Why Women Kill,” “Interrogation,” “The Thomas John Experience” and “Tell Me a Story,” as well as upcoming series “The Stand,”” The Man Who Fell to Earth,” “The Harper House,” and “Guilty Party.” The service is also the exclusive domestic home to “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard,” the animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” and the upcoming U.S.S. Enterprise-set series “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”

Since the transformation of CBS All Access began in late July, the service has experienced significant growth and engagement. With the addition of a mix of content, including UEFA soccer, “Big Brother Live Feeds,” “Star Trek: Lower Decks” and more than 3,500 episodes from across ViacomCBS brands, the service broke a record for total monthly streams in August and experienced one of its best months ever in terms of new subscriber sign-ups. In addition, the average age of new subscribers in August was measurably younger than the service’s overall average subscriber age, due in large part to the addition of UEFA and the newly added content from various ViacomCBS brands.

Leading up to the early 2021 rebrand to Paramount+, CBS All Access will expand its content offering to more than 30,000 episodes and movies and continue to develop additional original series across brands including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and more, transforming it into a diversified super service for the ViacomCBS portfolio.

“The response from consumers in just the early weeks of the service’s expansion already illustrates the tremendous opportunity ahead of us in bringing these phenomenal ViacomCBS brands together in one premium streaming home under the new Paramount+ name,” said chief digital officer Marc DeBevoise. “With the addition of even more content from across the portfolio as well as the new exclusive originals we are announcing today, we look forward to the early 2021 rebrand and bringing existing and new subscribers more of the compelling, genre-spanning live sports, breaking news and mountain of entertainment ViacomCBS has to offer.”

ViacomCBS Selling CNET Media Group for $500 Million

Zeroing in, during the pandemic, on streaming, ViacomCBS appears to have little room for other businesses such as CNET, Simon & Shuster publishing and commercial office space.

The corporate parent to Paramount Pictures Sept. 14 disclosed it has secured a $500 million sale of its CNET Media Group to private equities group Red Ventures. The transaction, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, is subject to regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.

CNET Media Group is a pioneer in digital media, with an expansive portfolio of digital media brands that advise consumers across consumer tech, business tech, gaming, and entertainment media brands, including ZDNet, in B2B focused content and Gamespot, a video games information brand. The portfolio also includes entertainment and lifestyle brands TVGuideMetacritic, and Chowhound.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“I believe that the combination of Red Ventures customer experience platform and CNET Media Group’s rich content and deep editorial expertise greatly benefits both our audiences and our partners,” Mark Larkin, EVP and GM of CNET Media Group, said in a statement. “Red Ventures shares our vision and is committed to realizing the full potential of our portfolio of world-class brands.”

Larkin and his senior team will remain with the company to continue their leadership of the CNET Media Group team following the acquisition.

CBS All Access Re-Ups Amazon Prime Channels Distribution

ViacomCBS Sept. 9 disclosed that its branded subscription streaming video-on-demand service, CBS All Access, has renewed distribution through Amazon Channels. The latter is a platform for Prime members enabling access to third-party over-the-top video services for a separate or reduced fee. Amazon keeps a percentage of revenue and user intel from each service while delivering them millions subscribers.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish, speaking Sept. 9 on the Bank of America Virtual Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, said the distribution deal with Amazon contributed to All Access and Showtime OTT generating 16 million combined subscribers through the end of the most-recent fiscal period. 

Bob Bakish

“[Amazon] continue[s] to be an excellent partner for us, and we for them,” Bakish said.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

With Disney generating incremental Disney+ subs by bundling the SVOD with Hulu and ESPN+, Bakish was asked if All Access, Showtime and Pluto TV would be bundled. The executive said the platforms would continue to be marketed separately and in select bundles.

The media giant currently offers a $9.99 monthly bundle of All Access and Showtime on Apple TV Channels — a branded platform affording iOS users access to third-party OTT video services for a separate fee. ViacomCBS has separate deals with with Comcast, Verizon and Viveo, among others.

Bakish said the agreements help maximize the value of ViacomCBS content across all platforms, and allows the company to benefit from an ecosystem that is becoming more integrated over time. The executive said ViacomCBS would explore other bundling opportunities as well as more generally increased distribution through other streaming partnerships.

“We believe this approach serves the broadest set of consumers’ needs and therefore the largest consumer base,” Bakish said. “It enables the most ubiquitous distribution, and we’ve learned overtime ubiquitous distribution is extremely powerful.”

Pluto TV Now Streaming on Web Browsers in the U.K., Germany, Austria and Switzerland

Pluto TV, the ad-supported VOD platform owned by ViacomCBS, is now available to stream on Web browsers in United Kingdom, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Pluto TV is also accessible through third-party connected devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Roku, Virgin Media, Now TV and via apps in the App Store and Google Play Store.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“Pluto TV has grown consistently since it launched outside of the U.S. two years ago. In Europe and the U.K., we’ve increased both our user base and our channel offering on a monthly basis,” Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of studios and streaming at ViacomCBS Networks International, said in a statement.

Gazzolo said browser access to Pluto TV is an important feature for consumers without streaming media devices, including connected televisions. Pluto.tv can be accessed on Safari, Chrome and Firefox and other operating systems. The platform recently topped 100 content channels.

Analyst to ViacomCBS: ‘Stop Feeding Netflix’ Original Content

ViacomCBS more than most media giants has aggressively licensed Paramount Pictures and related content to third-party distributors such as Netflix and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, among others, driven in part by the coronavirus pandemic. The strategy has led some Wall Street analysts to question how generating short-term revenue helps ViacomCBS’s plan to launch a global subscription streaming video platform in 2021.

Steven Cahall, media analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, contends ViacomCBS is shooting itself in the foot licensing content to media rivals instead of hoarding content for proprietary brands Pluto TV, CBS All Access and Showtime.

In the most-recent fiscal report, CEO Bob Bakish disclosed the company’s pending “house of brands” streaming platform designed to expand the global reach of CBS All Access.

“We’re accelerating our plans for an expanded subscription service, building off CBS All Access, with major changes coming this summer, as we track towards the rebrand and relaunch of a transformed product,” Bakish said in May.

In meantime, Cahall would like to see the company stop licensing away content better saved for its own over-the-top video platforms.

“We want to see [ViacomCBS] cease licensing marquee Paramount and Showtime content to competitors and stop feeding services like Netflix with originals,” Cahall wrote in a Aug. 27 note. “Our [stock] upgrade contemplates [the company] using divestiture cash to wean itself from licensing.”

Cahall suggests consolidating content could help increase combined subscribers to CBS All Access, Showtime, Noggin and BET+ to 26.6 million by 2026 from 11.2 million in 2019. Total SVOD revenue would skyrocket to $1.5 billion in 2025 from $779 million last year.

The analyst says the new “house of brands” service should retail from $10-$15 monthly — the latter comparable to HBO Max.

‘[The] closer [the price is] to $15 then the launch may be less enticing for consumers,” Cahall wrote.

‘The Stand’ to Premiere on CBS All Access Dec. 17

The limited series The Stand will premiere Dec. 17 on ViacomCBS’s SVOD and live streaming service CBS All Access.

The nine-episode series will drop weekly on Thursdays exclusively for CBS All Access subscribers.

The Stand is Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of mankind rests on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Whoopi Goldberg) and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg (Alexander Skarsgård), the Dark Man.

Based on King’s best-selling novel of the same name, the series will close with a new coda written by the author himself.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“During the two years we spent making The Stand, we all felt the responsibility of adapting what may be the most beloved work of one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, but none of us could have imagined that Stephen King’s 40-year-old masterpiece about a global pandemic would come to be so eerily relevant,” said Benjamin Cavell, showrunner and executive producer, in a statement. “We’re honored to tell this sprawling, epic story, including a new coda that Stephen King has wanted to add for decades. We’re so proud of this show and its attempt to find meaning and hope in the most uncertain of times. We can’t wait to share it with the world.”

Follow us on Instagram

In addition to Goldberg and Skarsgård, the series stars James Marsden as Stu Redman, Odessa Young as Frannie Goldsmith, Jovan Adepo as Larry Underwood, Amber Heard as Nadine Cross, Owen Teague as Harold Lauder, Henry Zaga as Nick Andros, Brad William Henke as Tom Cullen, Irene Bedard as Ray Bretner, Nat Wolff as Lloyd Henreid, Eion Bailey as Weizak, Heather Graham as Rita Blakemoor, Katherine McNamara as Julie Lawry, Fiona Dourif as Ratwoman, Natalie Martinez as Dayna Jurgens, Hamish Linklater as Dr. Jim Ellis, Daniel Sunjata as Cobb and Greg Kinnear as Glen Bateman.

Pluto TV Introduces New Channels, Categories and Content

ViacomCBS’s AVOD service Pluto TV is introducing new categories and reorganizing channels and programming to better suite content themes and genres.

Audiences will now have 15 categories to choose from, with new and existing programming. They include Movies, Entertainment, Featured, News + Opinion, Reality, Crime, Comedy, Classic TV, Home + DIY, Explore, Sports, Gaming + Anime, Music, Latino and Kids.

Pluto TV is also launching a dozen new channels. They include:

  • a 24/7 “Three’s Company” channel;
  • a channel of episodes of “The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson”;
  • Dabl, an over the air network featuring lifestyle experts, including “The Martha Stewart Show,” “Essence of Emeril,” “Cesar 911,” “Escape to the Country” and “Kitchen Nightmares”;
  • Loupe, a streaming art experience representing artists from around the world with hi-res visuals alongside music;
  • a 24/7 “The Rifleman” channel;
  • Demand Africa, offering access to a curated collection of Afrocentric TV shows, series, soaps, movies and lifestyle entertainment from Africa and the diaspora in the world;
  • Western TV, with such golden era Western series as “Walker Texas Ranger,” “The Lone Ranger,”” The Real McCoys,” “Hopalong Cassidy,” “The Adventures of Champion” and “The Rifleman”;
  • Classic TV Comedy, featuring everything from sitcoms to star-studded variety shows, including “Married With Children,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Roseanne” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show”;
  • Classic TV Drama, featuring such shows as “21 Jump Street,” “Sherlock Holmes” (1954) and “The Ray Bradbury Theater”;
  • Pluto TV Love Stories, featuring such shows as “McCleod’s Daughters,” “Failure to Launch,” “Elizabethtown” and “William & Kate”;
  • Pluto TV Fantastic, featuring such shows as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” “Monster Trucks,” “Spiderwick Chronicles” and “Stardust”; and
  • Pluto TV Suspense, featuring such titles as “Escaping Polygamy,” “Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen,” “Her Infidelity” and “Murder on the 13th Floor.”

 

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Announced in July, new classic programming from CBS continues to roll out across Pluto TV.  New series debuting on Pluto TV include “JAG” on TV Land Drama, “America’s Next Top Model” on Pluto TV Best Life and Pluto TV Celebrity, “Everybody Hates Chris” on TV Land Sitcoms, and “Moesha” on TV Land Sitcoms and BET Her.

With a global audience of more than 33 million monthly active users from more than 200 premium content providers, Pluto TV is available on all major mobile, connected TV and desktop devices.

ViacomCBS Looking to Sell CNET, Publisher Simon & Schuster

With its renewed streaming video corporate focus, ViacomCBS reportedly is looking to sell digital news platform CNETto a private equity group for around $500 million.

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the situation, ViacomCBS is looking to shed all non-essential business assets — including publisher Simon & Schuster — in an effort to save $800 million in cost synergies this year from the 2019 merger. The Journal said the deal between ViacomCBS and Fort Mill, S.C.-based Red Ventures could still fall apart.

Follow us on Instagram

ViacomCBS, whose assets include Paramount Pictures, Pluto TV and CBS All Access, is focusing on launching a unified SVOD platform around the CBS brand name.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

During the company’s most-recent fiscal call, the media company said it ended the period with 16.2 million domestic subscription streaming VOD subscribers via CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. It also claimed 26.5 million active monthly Pluto TV users, up 61% from a year ago.

CBS All Access and Showtime OTT Top 16.2 Million Combined Subs

ViacomCBS — which is planning to rebrand CBS All Access into a “super service” on par with HBO Max, Peacock and Disney+ — Aug. 6 reported its SVOD services CBS All Access and Showtime OTT reached 16.2 million combined subscribers through the second quarter ended June 30.

That’s up 74% from 9.3 million subs during the previous-year period.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The company announced All Access continued to break undisclosed records, with paid subs, streams and minutes watched reaching all-time highs in the quarter — driven by original programming, Paramount movies and children’s content from Nickelodeon. Showtime OTT also delivered its “best quarter ever” in subscriber sign-ups, streams and minutes watched, the company announced, driven by original programming, including “Homeland,” “Billions” and “The Chi.”

Separately, ViacomCBS-owned AVOD platform Pluto TV grew its domestic monthly active users 61% to 26.5 million, from 16.5 million during the previous-year period. In April, Pluto TV entered 17 Latin American markets, and in addition to its presence in Europe, this expansion brought Pluto TV’s total international monthly users to 6.5 million — or 33 million worldwide. Pluto TV increased its platform distribution through deals with Verizon, TiVo and LG.

Follow us on Instagram

ViacomCBS said domestic streaming and digital video revenue in the quarter rose to $489 million, up 25% year-over-year, driven by 52% growth in streaming subscription revenue.

“Our results underscored … rapid acceleration of our streaming business, where we achieved record users and revenue in free and pay while building toward the relaunch of our diversified super service,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

Indeed, last month ViacomCBS unveiled the first major step in transforming All Access in early 2021. The company added more than 3,500 episodes from the ViacomCBS portfolio, spanning series from BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian and more. The All Access library now has more than 20,000 episodes and movies. The platform will be home to a slate of new original and exclusive movies and series, including “Big Brother Live Feeds,” “The Stand,”  animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” feature film The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run, and “Kamp Koral,” a new original kids’ series premiering in 2021 and the first spinoff derived from “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The new All Access will also feature live programming, including news, tentpole events, sports, local CBS stations nationwide and CBSN, CBS News, The Super Bowl, The Grammy Awards, The Academy of Country Music Awards and The Tony Awards. It will also feature major sporting events from golf to football to basketball and UEFA club soccer competitions as the exclusive streaming home to the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Europa Conference League in the United States.