Genius Brands International’s ‘Kartoon Channel!’ Launches on Pluto TV

Genius Brands International Oct. 5 announced a deal with ViacomCBS’s ad-supported platform Pluto TV to stream a branded Kartoon Channel! beginning today, significantly expanding the curated free family-friendly channel’s content.

Pluto TV users will now have access to Kartoon’s program line-up, including Genius Brands’ slate of original series — “Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger; the fast-paced trivia original game show series for kids, “KC! Pop Quiz” (starting Oct. 12), hosted by Nickelodeon’s Casey Simpson; and the upcoming “Shaq’s Garage,” starring Shaquille O’Neal and Rob Gronkowski — as well as classics such as “Baby Genius” and “Pac-Man,” among others.

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Harold Chizick, president of content sales, marketing and consumer products at Genius Brands, said the company has a longstanding relationship with ViacomCBS, starting with the launch of “Rainbow Rangers” on Nick Jr. in 2018.

“This deal with Pluto TV provides us with an opportunity to significantly expand the brand footprint to a broad audience across the U.S., as well as to build our advertiser base,” Chizick said in a statement.

Amy Kuessner, SVP of content strategy and global partnerships at ViacomCBS Streaming, said Kartoon’s mission of providing “content with a purpose” to kids of all ages and their families is a perfect complement to ViacomCBS’s range of programming.

“We are thrilled to bring Kartoon Channel! to the Pluto TV audience,” she said.

ViacomCBS claims Pluto’s monthly average viewership base reaches 52 million users.

Pluto TV Launching Italian Service Oct. 28

ViacomCBS’s expansion of digital assets worldwide continues. The media giant has partnered with Comcast-owned satellite TV distributor Sky on multiple projects, including the planned Oct. 28 debut of FAST platform Pluto TV. Sky Media will serve as Pluto’s Italian advertising sales partner.

The debut will mark Italy’s first operating FAST service, which precludes the 2022 debut of Paramount+ in the European country. Pluto TV currently has more than 50 million active monthly users across 25 countries.

“ViacomCBS is rapidly expanding its global streaming footprint, connecting consumers with a vast library of great content across free and pay platforms worldwide,” Olivier Jollet, SVP and GM of Pluto TV, said in a statement.

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Channels available at launch include Pluto TV Azione, Pluto TV Cinema Italiano, Pluto TV Drama and Pluto TV Real Life, in addition to content from myriad third parties including Lionsgate, Minerva, KidsMe, Banijay Rights and Cineflix Rights, among others.

“This further strengthens Sky Media’s portfolio in terms of digital platforms, audience and content,” said Evelyn Rothblum, EVP of advertising, partnerships and distribution at Sky Italy and Sky Deutschland.

Bob Bakish: Paramount Theatrical/Streaming Co-Releases Limited to Family Movies

Paramount Pictures’ theatrical release Paw Patrol: The Movie was the studio’s first concurrent box office/Paramount+ streaming debut — a strategy the studio plans to employ going forward on family movies, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told an investor group.

Speaking Sept. 22 on the virtual Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Bakish said Paramount would stick to a shortened 45-day exclusive window for major releases such as A Quiet Place Part II, Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7.

The executive said the simultaneous release of Paw Patrol on Paramount+ made the movie the most-watched original title on the platform, and helped drive box office. The animated movie has generated $37.2 million in U.S. theaters, $103.3 million worldwide.

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“The combined release strategy drove incremental performance,” Bakish said. “We think that’s actually a good [distribution] model for kids and family films, particularly in these COVID times. It gives consumers optionality, where they feel most comfortable. We did a bunch of research on that.”

The CEO said Paw Patrol outperformed The Green Knight at the box office, despite the latter releasing exclusively in theaters. He said the concurrent release also helped Paramount “eventize” the movie’s release across ViacomCBS properties, including consumer products.

“We promoted Paw Patrol both in theaters and on Paramount+ on over 2 million [consumer product items] at retail,” Bakish said. “That, too, built excitement around it.”

The studio is also releasing the upcoming Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin and The Space Between exclusivity to Paramount+. The studio is also releasing the first two episodes of original Paramount+ crime drama “Mayor of Kingstown” on the Paramount Network before reverting exclusively to the streaming platform.

“We think exclusive availability, particularly at lower budget level movies, is a compelling value creation opportunity for streaming,” Bakish said.

ViacomCBS Launches BET Studios

ViacomCBS Sept. 15 announced the launch of BET Studios, a studio venture offering equity ownership for black content creators. Propelled by the infrastructure and financing of BET and ViacomCBS, BET Studios aims to create premium television series and films for an array of internal buyers, including Paramount+, Showtime, CBS, Nickelodeon, BET+ and BET, in addition to select third-party platforms.

BET Studios will launch with principal partners movie/TV producer Kenya Barris; actress, director, writer Rashida Jones; and screenwriter/producer Aaron Rahsaan Thomas.

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Kenya Barris, Rashida Jones and Aaron Rahsaan Thomas

 

BET Studios will operate with dedicated staff reporting to Barris, Jones and Thomas. This group will utilize the BET and larger ViacomCBS infrastructure and shared services to support day-to-day tactics.

Barris created the Netflix original comedy “#BlackAF,” and the multi-series “-ish” franchise, which includes ABC’s Peabody Award-winning sitcom “Black-ish” and spin-off series “Mixed-ish” and “Grown-ish,” which airs on Freeform. Most recently, Barris co-wrote Coming 2 America for Paramount, which licensed the movie to Amazon Prime Video.

“The demand for premium content from black creators has accelerated dramatically as a result of both the rapidly changing media and social landscapes,” Scott Mills, president of BET, said in a statement.

Black Entertainment Television was founded in 1980 by Robert L. Johnson, who later sold the company to ViacomCBS. BET ended 2015 with a reported access in 88 million U.S. pay-TV households. Johnson later bought Acorn Media and Image Entertainment, creating RLJ Entertainment, which he sold to AMC Networks.

“BET Studios is an exciting and novel extension of the storied BET brand, and we have a structure well-suited to our times to bring top talent into this production company with real ownership,” said David Nevins, chief content officer of scripted originals at Paramount, and chairman and chief executive officer of Showtime Networks.

BET Studios will be headed by Aisha Summers Burke, who was recently appointed EVP and GM of the new venture. In this role, Burke will be responsible for working collaboratively with the studio’s creative partners and key internal constituencies. Along with overseeing the day-to-day creative affairs for the company, she will also be responsible for the BET Studios content slate and focusing on growing the Studio’s production output across both internal and external platforms. Burke will report to Mills.

Prior to joining BET, Burke spent 13 years at Warner Bros. Television, most recently serving as VP of scripted television for the cable and streaming division of Warner Horizon before it merged with Warner Bros. TV in 2020.

BET in 2019 launched BET+, a SVOD service operated by Tyler Perry Studios and the BET Networks.

ViacomCBS CFO: ‘Paw Patrol’ Concurrent Release on Paramount+ Upped Title’s Box Office Haul

ViacomCBS streaming platform Paramount+ may be late to the SVOD party, but the service is taking giant steps to reach scale and market penetration in the United States and worldwide.

Borrowing a strategic page from other media companies, ViacomCBS is intertwining movie and TV production, in addition to distribution, around streaming with a goal of enhancing existing linear and developing digital pathways to the consumer.

Speaking Sept. 14 at the virtual Banc of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference, CFO Naveen Chopra said Paramount Pictures’ releases would continue to be a vital component to the media company’s ability to connect with audiences.

ViacomCBS CFO Naveen Chopra

“Movies have always had the ability to be monetized through multiple channels, and the difference today is that we have more distribution options for our films than we’ve ever had,” Chopra said. “And you’re starting to see us take advantage of that.”

Indeed, with the recent theatrical release of animated movie Paw Patrol: The Movie, ViacomCBS made the popular children’s series’ first feature film adaptation simultaneously available for free to Paramount+ subscribers.

The title has generated $92.6 million at the global box office, including $35 million in the U.S., since its Aug. 20 debut.

Paw Patrol’s box office results actually exceeded studio expectations when we thought the movie would be an exclusive theatrical release [pre-pandemic],” Chopra said. “The simultaneous release on P+ was very synergistic. The streaming release definitely helped drive awareness and interest in seeing the movie in the theater. And the theatrical release did a lot to [market] the movie on Paramount+, and really drove it very quickly to become the most-watched originals we have released on the service.”

The CFO said the streaming service also enhanced the movie requisite ties with consumer products and toys entering the winter holiday period. That said, Chopra reiterated that incorporating streaming with theatrical is not a “one-size fits all” approach.

He said the box office sequel A Quiet Place Part II realized an exclusive 45-day theatrical window before streaming on Paramount+, while titles such as Infinite and the pending new “Paranormal Activity” release will debut on the SVOD platform.

“What we’re doing is looking at our films on a case-by-case basis, and we’re trying to optimize, based on the specifics of the movie, other constituents that are involved, and the realities of the pandemic,” Chopra said. “We’re trying to make the best decisions for each of those movies, and so far, I think it has worked very well.”

Indeed, major box office releases Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7, both starring Tom Cruise, have been further delayed into 2022.

“The fact is, the theatrical environment is still very dynamic, and very different in different parts of the world,” Chopra said. “And in order to really maximize the value of those assets, it makes sense to wait.”

Paramount Set to Hand Studio Reins to Nickelodeon Boss Brian Robbins

Paramount Pictures reportedly plans to name Brian Robbins, president of kids and family entertainment for ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks, to run the famed studio — replacing Jim Gianopulos, who has headed Paramount since 2017. Gianopulos will assist in the transition, which is expected to announced next week.

Jim Gianopulos

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, the expected management change — at the behest of ViacomCBS chairman Sharri Redstone — comes as Paramount grapples with the ongoing pandemic, rollout of branded Paramount+ streaming service, licensing feature films to third-party SVOD platforms, and delaying theatrical releases of benchmark Tom Cruise titles Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7, among other issues.

The studio recently filed a $100 million lawsuit against the insurer of Mission: Impossible 7, alleging Federal Insurance Company has paid out just $5 million to cover talent losses associated with the movie’s production delays.

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Parrot Analytics: ViacomCBS Content Helping Paramount+ Competitors

High U.S. audience demand for ViacomCBS content is not being correctly leveraged to set up Paramount+ for success, according to a new report from Parrot Analytics. Indeed, ViacomCBS content is propping up the demand of Paramount+’s direct competitors, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, according to Parrot.

In Q2 2021, ViacomCBS content had the second-highest corporate demand share of any media conglomerate in the United States, behind only Disney, according to Parrot data.

Meanwhile, Paramount+ was the sixth most in-demand streaming platform in U.S. audience demand for all on-platform content, and the seventh most in-demand streaming platform for digital original content.

“ViacomCBS has decided to go for guaranteed revenue now by licensing out its most in-demand series — such as ‘Criminal Minds,’ ‘NCIS,’ ‘Shameless’ and ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ — to other streaming platforms,” wrote Wade Payson-Denney, press insights analyst at Parrot Analytics.

ViacomCBS content makes up 7.4% of the licensed catalog demand for Hulu, 24.8% for Amazon Prime Video, and 25.6% for Netflix.

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“Demand for exclusive content — both original and licensed — is the key driver of subscription growth and retention for streaming services, so if ViacomCBS wants to truly compete in the crowded SVOD space, they have to pull back their licensed content and make it exclusive to Paramount+,” Payson-Denney wrote.

In terms of corporate demand share (a consolidation of original demand where platforms are combined based on their corporate parent to show where audience attention is ultimately going), ViacomCBS (12.3%) was second place in the United States in Q2 2021, behind Disney (18.9%) but ahead of WarnerMedia (11%) and Comcast (10.3%).

ViacomCBS series are driving major portions of demand for other U.S. SVOD services. Around a quarter of all demand for licensed series on Netflix is for a ViacomCBS series such as “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” This is around the same proportion for Amazon Prime Video and Peacock. If all these series were reclaimed by ViacomCBS and made exclusively available on Paramount+, it would have a formidable library, according to Payson-Denney.

Nearly half of the demand for content on Paramount+ is non-exclusive to the platform, and the platform is significantly lagging in total demand for its original series, the report found. This is important because demand for exclusive licensed and original content is what drives consumers to subscribe to platforms, Payson-Denney wrote.

Parrot uses a proprietary metric called demand expressions, which measures demand for TV content in a given market 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. Results are expressed as a comparison with the average demand for a TV show of any kind in the market.

‘South Park’ Creators Sign Deal to Make Movies for Paramount+

Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of “South Park,” have signed a deal with ViacomCBS for new seasons of the long-running animated series and 14 new movies based on it.

The deal, reportedly worth $900 million, runs through 2027, extending “South Park” on Comedy Central through season 30. The new movies will debut twice a year, starting this year, exclusively on Paramount+.

The move effectively splits the “South Park” franchise IP between two rival streaming services. In 2019 the show’s production house, South Park Studios, a joint venture between ViacomCBS, Parker and Stone, chose to sell streaming rights to the previous 23 seasons to HBO Max for $500 million rather than save the series for CBS All Access, which was re-branded as Paramount+ in 2021. The multiyear HBO Max deal, which runs through the 26th season, also includes next-day access to episodes after they debut on Comedy Central, the cable channel that has been home to “South Park” since it premiered in 1997.

The show, famous for its topicality as episodes can be produced in less than a week, has been on a relative hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic, though has released two hourlong specials that are available on HBO Max.

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ViacomCBS Partners With Sky to Launch Paramount+ in Europe

ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI) and Sky on Aug. 5 announced that Paramount+ will launch on Sky platforms in the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 2022.

The launch is part of a new multiyear distribution agreement that also includes the extended carriage of ViacomCBS’s pay-TV channels and the renewal of Sky as an ad sales partner in select markets.

VCNI is a division of ViacomCBS and Sky is part of Comcast Corporation.

“We are thrilled to expand our long-standing partnership with Sky to continue delivering ViacomCBS’s leading portfolio of premium entertainment brands to Sky customers and importantly bring Paramount+ to new audiences in all Sky markets,” VCNI CEO Raffaele Annecchino said in a statement. “This transformative distribution deal is key to accelerating our global ambitions in streaming while also supporting Sky’s strategic objectives to better serve audiences with greater flexibility in how they consume our content across all platforms.”

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Paramount+ is the latest in a series of apps to come to Sky Q, adding more than 10,000 hours of content, further enhancing Sky’s aggregation strategy, and enabling Sky customers to watch even more of the best content together in one place on the Sky Q platform.

Stephen van Rooyen, EVP and CEO of the U.K. and Europe at Sky, said the partnership underscores a win-win situation for both companies while aggregating content apps and content on Sky Q.

“Paramount+ is an excellent service with a huge range of fantastic films and TV series, and our new, broader agreement with ViacomCBS will benefit both businesses,” van Rooyen said.

Upon launch, Sky Cinema subscribers will get Paramount+ included at no additional cost. As part of this partnership, Paramount Pictures’ feature films will remain available on Sky Cinema in the U.K. and will join Sky Cinema in Germany and Italy in 2022. All other Sky customers will be able to subscribe to Paramount+ as an add-on to their account.

Titles that will become available through 2022 in the U.K., Ireland, Italy and GSA include a collection of scripted, exclusive Paramount+ originals and exciting new takes on iconic franchises, including HALOThe Offer and the new iCarly series. As the international home of SHOWTIME, the service will offer The Man Who Fell to Earth, Ripley, Super Pumped and American Gigolo, in addition to popular titles from ViacomCBS, such as Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years, Star Trek: Prodigy and MTV Unplugged. The service will also feature a collection of new movie premieres and fan favorites from Paramount Pictures such as films from the “Mission: Impossible” and “Transformer” franchises.

In addition, ViacomCBS and Sky reached a multiyear extension for carriage of ViacomCBS’s linear channels — including Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon — in the U.K., Ireland, Italy and GSA. The channels will be complemented by a strong selection of box sets, giving customers the flexibility to watch the content they love whenever and wherever they want.

ViacomCBS also renewed its multiyear agreement with Sky as an ad sales partner for all platforms and channels in the U.K. and Italy. Sky Media will continue to handle ad sales across the ViacomCBS portfolio of channels, including Channel 5 in the U.K., where ViacomCBS and Channel 5 will benefit from Sky Media’s market-leading innovation in addressable advertising.

Other terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

Paramount+ will also be available direct-to-consumer in U.K., Ireland, Italy and GSA through the Paramount+ app for iOS and Android and across supported connected TV devices and OTT platforms. Pricing and local content offering will be announced at a later date.

Paramount+, Showtime Combine for 42 Million Subscribers

ViacomCBS Aug. 5 reported that its branded Paramount+ and Showtime OTT subscriptions streaming video platforms completed the second quarter (ended June 30) with a combined 42 million subscribers. That was up 6.5 million subs from May. Paramount+ officially launched in March as the rebranded form of CBS All Access.

As previously speculated, the media giant disclosed it is partnering with Comcast’s Sky satellite operator in the U.K. for rollout of Paramount+ across Europe. Media reports had said ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish and chairman Sheri Redstone had met with Comcast chairman/CEO Brian Roberts to discuss a joint streaming partnership.

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Paramount+ is set to launch in Australia and New Zealand this month and in key European markets, including the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 2022.

Showtime OTT sub additions were driven by originals, including “The Chi,” “Shameless” and “City on a Hill.”

Global expansion and domestic growth helped global Pluto TV monthly average users exceed 52 million in the quarter, and revenue surged 169% year-over-year, more than doubling for the fourth quarter in a row. Domestic watch-time per user grew 45% year-over-year.

Streaming subscription revenue grew 82% year-over-year, reflecting the strong sub growth across the company’s streaming services.

Bakish said Paramount+ streaming live sports (soccer, golf and NFL) is key to sub growth, appealing to specific sports fans, while expanding CBS Sports into the streaming ecosystem.

“This growth was driven by the power of the service’s differentiated content strategy and expanding content slate,” Bakish said in a statement. “Looking ahead, we’re excited about our opportunity to build on this momentum, as we scale Paramount+’s content offerings across genres and expand our reach with global audiences.”