Streaming Video Pushes ViacomCBS Fiscal Results as CBS All Access, Showtime OTT Near 18 Million Subs

Streaming video — both subscription and ad-supported — is the current endgame for ViacomCBS heading into 2021. Third-quarter fiscal results suggest that goal is already bearing fruit.

Domestic streaming and digital video revenue increased to $636 in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30), up 56% year-over-year from $408 million, driven by 78% growth in subscription streaming video revenue and strong double-digit digital video (AVOD) advertising growth.

Indeed, domestic streaming subscribers reached 17.9 million, up 72% year-over-year from 10.4 million, driven by CBS All Access and Showtime OTT having significant growths in sign-ups both sequentially and year-over-year.

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ViacomCBS said CBS All Access — which will rebrand to Paramount+ in 2021 — benefited from strong demand for sports content, including UEFA soccer and the NFL, as well as a broad selection of entertainment content, including live TV, reality series, content from in-house cable brands and original programming.

Showtime OTT’s strong quarter was driven by original programming, including the third season of “The Chi,” the continued strength of “Billions” and the final season of “Homeland.” In AVOD, Pluto TV grew its domestic monthly active users to 28.4 million, up 57% year-over-year, and more than doubled its advertising revenue in the quarter. Internationally, Pluto TV monthly average users grew to 7.5 million, bringing its total global user base to nearly 36 million.

“This quarter, we achieved strong user growth across our streaming platforms as we continue to build our linked ecosystem of pay and free services,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement. “Our company’s transformation is ahead of schedule and we are incredibly excited by the opportunities ahead.”

Indeed, Pluto TV launched in Spain in October, ahead of upcoming launches in Brazil, France and Italy. The AVOD platform also signed new distribution agreements with LG and Sony PlayStation, extending its reach to an additional 100 million devices worldwide.

In October, ViacomCBS announced Tom Ryan as President and CEO of its new global streaming organization, integrating both its pay and free streaming businesses, while enhancing its ability to leverage its content strength and cross-company franchises.

 

Paramount Home Entertainment Revenue Up 14% Through Nine Months of 2020

Consumers love catalog and Miramax movies. That’s the bottom line as Paramount Pictures Nov. 6 reported that sales of packaged-media and transactional digital movies reached $533 million, which is up 13.8% from revenue of $468 million during the previous-year period. In the quarter, revenue topped $150 million, essentially flat with the $153 million generated in the previous-year period.

Primary sales drivers in the quarter included Paramount catalog and Miramax movies. Top-selling Paramount titles include Terminator: Dark Fate, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the original Top Gun.

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On the flipside, the famed studio generated just $6 million at the box office, underscoring ongoing fiscal challenges to the theater business due to the coronavirus pandemic. For the nine months of the fiscal year, revenue is down 58% to $176 million, from $418 million in the previous-year period. Parent ViacomCBS deemed theatrical revenue “immaterial” due to the closure or reduction in capacity of movie theaters in response to COVID-19.

To CEO Bob Bakish, the immediate future for Paramount lies in the 2021 rollout of SVOD platform Paramount+ and recent unification of ViacomCBS’s global streaming organization.

“Our company’s transformation is ahead of schedule and we are incredibly excited by the opportunities ahead,” Bakish said in a statement.

ViacomCBS Ups Pluto TV CEO Tom Ryan to Head Global Streaming; Marc DeBevoise Stepping Down

In a major management shakeup underscoring the importance of streaming video to its future, ViacomCBS Oct. 20 disclosed a new leadership structure for its global free (ad-supported) and pay streaming services. Tom Ryan, currently CEO of Pluto TV, will assume the role of president/CEO of ViacomCBS Streaming, a new unit overseeing CBS All Access, which will relaunch as Paramount+ in early 2021, and Pluto TV.

The promotion means that Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer of ViacomCBS, and president/CEO of ViacomCBS Digital, will step down and serve in an advisory capacity for the remainder of 2020. DeBevoise, who previously served as president/COO of CBS Interactive since 2016, was instrumental in the launch of CBS All Access, including original series “Star Trek: Discovery,” among others.

Tom Ryan

Ryan, who helped launch ad-supported VOD platform Pluto TV in 2014, will be tasked with overseeing the transformation of CBS All Access into Paramount+, working closely with the team on programming strategy, platform development and marketing for the enhanced streaming service. Ryan will partner with the ViacomCBS Content Council to accelerate a franchise-driven content strategy across the company’s streaming ecosystem, formalizing the role of ViacomCBS’s studios as multiplatform content providers. This will maximize the deployment of both IP and talent relationships across ViacomCBS’s streaming and other platforms.

Kelly Day, COO of ViacomCBS Networks International, will take on an expanded role as president of streaming of VCNI, overseeing all non-U.S. digital and streaming platforms in addition to her COO responsibilities. She will work with Ryan and David Lynn, president/ CEO of VCNI, on ViacomCBS’s international streaming expansion, including the debut of Paramount+ in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics in 2021, as well as the ongoing international rollout of Pluto TV.

Kelly Day

As a result, Pierluigi Gazzolo will step down from his position as president of streaming and studios at VCNI, to pursue other interests.

“As we plan for the launch of Paramount+, bringing together the leaders of our streaming platforms to create a unified global organization will enable us to execute a holistic strategy across both free and pay,” Bob Bakish, president/CEO of ViacomCBS, said in a statement. Bakish called Ryan a “pioneering streaming executive” who has demonstrated “extraordinary talent” in creating a differentiated, consumer-centric streaming video service.

Bakish credited DeBevoise and Gazzolo for their contributions to ViacomCBS’s success — adding the two had helped set the course for the company’s digital businesses and laid a strong foundation for its next phase of streaming strategy.

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As CEO of Pluto TV, Ryan helped the service reach 33 million monthly active users globally. He guided the service through its $330 million acquisition by Viacom in January 2019. Earlier in his career, Ryan served as CEO of Threadless, an online art community and e-commerce company, from 2008 to 2012. Previously he was SVP of digital strategy and business development at EMI Music and was part of the early team at Virgin Mobile USA. He also co-founded Cductive, a pioneering online music service that merged with eMusic in 1999.

Day has served as COO of VCNI since March 2020. Prior to that, she served as president of Viacom Digital Studios (VDS) since November 2017, overseeing Viacom’s digital strategy, including the expansion of Viacom’s original programming across its online video and social media platforms. She previously served as the chief business officer and chief digital officer of multi-platform media company Awesomeness, where she was responsible for international expansion, global distribution strategies and revenue across television, mobile and OTT providers, also driving the company’s product and technology investments.

 

Showtime Bringing Back ‘Dexter’ for Limited Series

Showtime is bringing back “Dexter,” the show about a Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst/vigilante serial killer played by Michael C. Hall, who did away with society’s evildoers. The award-winning series ended in 2013, in a finale that underwhelmed many fans of the show.

“Roll out the plastic. #Dexter is returning to Showtime” read the Oct. 15 tweet. “America’s favorite serial killer Dexter Morgan will return to Showtime in a new 10-episode limited series that will once again bring together series star Michael C. Hall and showrunner Clyde Phillips.”

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Showtime and its sister branded subscription video-on-demand service are owned and operated by ViacomCBS. The new series is slated to release in fall 2021 again featuring Hall, who won a Golden Globe and earned  six Emmy nominations, spearheading the show. “Dexter,” which ran for eight seasons, generated more than 20 Emmy nominations.

“‘Dexter’ is such a special series, both for its millions of fans and for Showtime, as this breakthrough show helped put our network on the map many years ago,” Gary Levine, president Showtime Entertainment, said in a statement. “We would only revisit this unique character if we could find a creative take that was truly worthy of the brilliant, original series. Well, I am happy to report that Clyde Phillips and Michael C. Hall have found it, and we can’t wait to shoot it and show it to the world!”

Additional details on the ninth season, including co-stars, were not disclosed. Past seasons of the show are available on streaming and packaged media.

Pluto TV Gets Netflix Original Series ‘Narcos’

In a significant move, ViacomCBS-owned AVOD platform Pluto TV has secured free streaming rights to Netflix original series “Narcos” beginning on Oct. 20. The deal was ironed out between Gaumont, co-producer of the series, and Pluto TV. This marks the first time the five seasons of the entire “Narcos” series will be available to stream, for free, in the U.S.

T-Mobile joins Pluto TV as the presenting sponsor for “Narcos,” offering limited commercial interruptions for the first two episodes.

The series about law enforcement’s efforts to take down notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar (played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura) originally streamed on Netflix in August 2015. The program will be streamed across four different Pluto TV channels, with multiple air times and different languages to appeal to and accommodate a wide variety of viewing audiences and preferences.

“Narcos” will be programmed across Pluto TV’s Crime Drama and Narco Novelas channels and its own branded single-series, marathon-style channels — Narcos and Narcos en Español. Spanish-speaking versions of Narcos will stream with English subtitles, and respectively, English-speaking versions of Narcos will stream with Spanish subtitles catering to multi-lingual audiences.

“As the adoption of ad-supported streaming continues to accelerate, we are excited to build on that momentum and align with esteemed creators and producers in search of new ways to introduce audiences to their coveted collection of award-winning content,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content strategy and global partnerships at Pluto TV, said in a statement.

Kuessner said the deal with Gaumont underscores the evolving AVOD landscape that is rapidly gaining foothold for distributors, content holders and viewers.

Season One of “Narcos” will stream weeknights at 10 p.m. ET, with catch-up episodes the following day beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Bonus weekend marathons will be offered following the series premiere. Pluto TV will debut a new season each month through February 2021.

“Narcos” (season 1-3): From the Colombian government to the DEA agents and the policemen who would risk their lives pursuing drug lord Pablo Escabar, the series takes an unfiltered look into the war that would change the drug trade forever.

Spin-off series,”Narcos: Mexico” (season 4-5) explores the origin of the modern war on drugs, beginning at the time when Mexican traffickers were a loose and disorganized confederation of small-time independent dealers.  As the series progresses, viewers are introduced to DEA Agent Walt Breslin, the man in charge of Operation Leyenda: the DEA’s second attempt to take down the biggest drug lords in Mexico.

Pluto TV Lands on Roku Platform in Latin America

ViacomCBS’s ad-supported VOD platform Pluto TV has inked a distribution deal with Roku for the streaming video device manufacturer’s platform in Latin America.

The agreement is aimed at expanding access to Pluto TV’s planned 70 channels featuring curated Spanish-language content in 17 Latin American countries. Pluto TV, which ViacomCBS acquired in 2019 for $340 million, has more than 33 million users internationally (including the U.S., Europe and Latin America).

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The deal sees Pluto TV available on The Roku Channel Store in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

“The arrival of Pluto TV to Roku … will allow our users to have an excellent experience of streaming content on a bigger screen, easily, comfortably and without restrictions,” Marco Nobili, SVP of emerging business and strategy at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “We believe Pluto TV is a great complement to all of our distribution partners who can offer free fan-favorite content to their subscribers and users on the same platform that they consume content.”

Yulia Poltorak, director of international content distribution at Roku, said the deal expands upon The Roku Channel’s ad-supported free content outside the U.S., which includes content from film studios, TV channels and production companies from around the world.

“Now more than ever, our users are asking for [more] free content,” Poltorak said.

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

ViacomCBS’s 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 during 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’s 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.”

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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 $3.6 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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.”