ViacomCBS: CBS All Access, Showtime OTT Combined U.S. Subs Top 19.2 Million

Just says before CBS All Access morphs into the Paramount+ subscription streaming service in early March, corporate parent ViacomCBS Feb. 24 said combined U.S. subscriptions to All Access and Showtime OTT reached 19.2 million at the end of the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 202o. That compares to 11 million combined subs at the end of 2019.

ViacomCBS said All Access momentum was driven by demand for sports content, including the NFL, UEFA and SEC, as well as original programming, including “Star Trek: Discovery” and “The Stand,” and content from ViacomCBS cable brands. Showtime OTT benefitted from strong demand for original programming, including the
premieres of “Shameless” and the limited series “Your Honor,” as well as theatricals.

All Access, which becomes Paramount+ on March 4, costs $5.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without. Showtime OTT, which is not joining Paramount+, costs $9.99 monthly. Paramount+ is available for a 50% discount through March 2  if consumers buy a year-long subscription  with a special code: PARAMOUNTPLUS.

In the quarter and fiscal year, global streaming subscribers grew to nearly 30 million, with ad-supported VOD platform Pluto TV’s global monthly average users up to 43 million. Domestic streaming subs rose 71% year-over-year, and Pluto TV domestic monthly average users increased to 30.1 million.

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“Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, we finished the year with strong advertising and affiliate results that demonstrate the strength of our core businesses and achieved incredible growth across our linked streaming ecosystem,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

Paramount Has Steep SVOD Mountain to Climb

NEWS ANALYSIS — In the TV ad, actor Patrick Stewart (“Star Trek: Picard”), dressed in a tuxedo, summons a group of characters from various ViacomCBS television shows, including puzzled PGA Tour golfer Bryson DeChambeau, atop the icy 29,150-foot “Paramount Mountain” to talk about their pending subscription streaming VOD home, Paramount+, which launches March 4.

“What are we supposed to do up here?” asks a bundled up Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” “We dance,” replies Stewart. “Sure, let’s make it weirder,” deadpans comic Stephen Colbert.

If the TV personalities seem confused, imagine how ViacomCBS brass feel tasked with bowing the market’s sixth new SVOD platform in the past 17 months? CEO Bob Bakish is slated to reveal further details on the media company’s Feb. 24 investor day.

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The Paramount Mountain ad is the third of four commercials that began airing in the past month touting the latest SVOD competitor in a market saturated by Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, among others. By all accounts, Paramount+ — like the namesake studio — faces an uphill path to market share or relevance.

Netflix ended 2020 with more than 203 million subscribers, followed by Disney with 146 million (Disney Plus, Hulu, Hulu+Live TV, ESPN Plus) and Amazon, which disclosed 100 million Prime Video subs in 2018. By comparison, ViacomCBS had 16 million combined subs for CBS All Access and Showtime OTT at the end of the most-recent fiscal period. And only All Access is morphing into Paramount+.

“They are in a scripted-entertainment arms race with companies that are just so much bigger,” MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson told Bloomberg. “They need to do something to attract more subscribers.”

Paramount+ will cost $5.99 monthly/$59.99 annually with limited commercials, and $9.99/$99 for a commercial-free option. To entice subscribers, ViacomCBS is offering a 50% discount on the annual fee when using the promotional code “ParamountPlus” until March 3.

Surprisingly, among challenges facing Paramount+ out the gate: Exclusive content. Following a pandemic 2020, Bakish licensed away rights to Paramount Pictures movies and Paramount Television content, including “Yellowstone” to NBCUniversal’s rival Peacock SVOD platform. The series, starring Kevin Costner as a cattle rancher in Montana, is Paramount Network’s biggest-ever TV show.

Indeed, Paramount Television produces shows for Netflix, Amazon and Facebook. For instance, the show “Jack Ryan” is on Prime Video. The company launched Viacom Digital Studios to produce social media friendly content for outlets such as Facebook.

“They sold everything to Netflix,” said Wedbush Securities media analyst Michael Pachter. “They got addicted to the earnings stream.”

Bakish admits the license deals are financially accretive to the bottom line; telling a CES event in January that he believes “there’s a lot of value in assets that we already own.” The executive contends the goal is “unlocking opportunity through truly multi-platform distribution,” whether it be AVOD, SVOD, legacy platforms or other models.

VIacomCBS has made a huge push into AVOD through the 2019 acquisition of Pluto TV. Its founder, Tom Ryan, is now in charge of ViacomCBS Streaming, overseeing all streaming and digital platforms including Paramount+.

“Relative to some of our peers, we’re further along in this [digital] transition,” Bakish said.

ViacomCBS Launching Paramount+ Streaming Video Service March 4

ViacomCBS Jan. 19 announced that streaming video service Paramount+, a rebranding of CBS All Access, will launch in the United States March 4.

The platform will also bow internationally with initial debuts in Latin America on March 4; the Nordics on March 25; and Australia in mid-2021. The CBS All Access service in Canada will be rebranded to Paramount+ on March 4, and an expanded offering will be available later in the year.

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Additionally, the company will host an investor event and issue fourth-quarter and full-year financial results for the period ending Dec. 31, 2020, on Feb. 24. The presentation will deliver a comprehensive overview of the company’s streaming strategy, including Paramount+, Pluto TV, and Showtime OTT.

 

ViacomCBS Expands Distribution With Hulu Online TV Platform

ViacomCBS has its upcoming launch of Paramount+ streaming service, but the media giant hasn’t forgotten about its pay-TV business. The company Jan. 4 announced a new distribution agreement that adds more content from its portfolio of news, entertainment and sports networks to Disney-owned Hulu’s live TV subscription streaming service, Hulu + Live TV — the largest online television platform.

The multiyear deal includes continued carriage of CBS broadcast stations, CBS Sports Network, Pop TV, Smithsonian Channel, and The CW, as well as continued distribution of subscription streaming video service, Showtime. The deal will also introduce 14 additional ViacomCBS networks to Hulu + Live TV, including BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, VH1, CMT, Nick Jr., TV Land, BET Her, MTV2, NickToons, TeenNick and MTV Classic.

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“We are excited to have reached an expanded agreement with Hulu that underscores the value of our powerful portfolio of brands to next-generation TV platforms and viewers,” Ray Hopkins, president of U.S. Networks Distribution for ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “Hulu continues to be a great partner, and this agreement ensures that Hulu + Live TV subscribers are now able to enjoy the full breadth of our leading content across news, sports and entertainment for the first time.”

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

ViacomCBS CEO: Monthly Pluto TV Users to Reach 40 Million Globally, 19 Million SVOD Subs by Year’s End

ViacomCBS is ending 2020 with some good news. The company expects 40 million average global monthly users of its ad-supported Pluto TV platform, and 19 million combined SVOD subscribers for CBS All Access and Showtime OTT. The updated numbers were disclosed Dec. 8 by CEO Bob Bakish on the virtual UBS Global Investor event.

“We now see domestic streaming and digital revenue, which does include some ad sales, at an annual run rate in Q4 of $3 billion dollars,” Bakish said, adding that the tally is up from the $2.8 billion projected on the previous fiscal call. “That implies over 50% growth in the [fourth] quarter.”

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish

Bakish said the revenue projection underscores his positivity around streaming video as a major future for the company. ViacomCBS plans to hold an investor event in early 2021 to discuss the company’s streaming strategy, which includes further details on the rollout of the rebooted CBS All Access service as Paramount+.

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“We’ll give an update on our entire streaming ecosystem, which includes Pluto TV and Showtime OTT, and how we’re using the great assets of the company to pursue a global streaming strategy,” Bakish said.

Notably, Bakish said ViacomCBS would look to differentiate content offerings across ad-supported Pluto TV, Paramount+ and Showtime OTT, underscoring the fact the latter service would remain separate from Paramount+ in 2021. Bakish said Pluto would act as a link toward the company’s SVOD channels.

“I think it’s fair to say the world is quickly embracing free streaming, which is why Pluto TV is key to our strategy,” he said, adding that streaming video — driven by an average of more than three services in the average U.S. home — represents a global opportunity for the media company.

“It’s definitely a growing category,” Bakish said.

Indeed, Paramount+ will look to combine live sports, breaking news and a “deep roster” of exclusive originals and content franchises for “every audience,” according to Bakish.

“This is a cross-demographic product,” he said.

Bakish outlined a few original series, including limited series “The Offer,” about the making of The Godfather; new SpongeBob kids series “Camp Coral,” which drops after the debut of movie SpongeBob: Sponge on the Run on Paramount+; and a  new series from “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan.

“There’s no question in my mind that our streaming strategy is working,” Bakish said.

CBS All Access Coming to Comcast’s Xfinity X1 Pay-TV Platform

Comcast Cable Dec. 7 announced that the ViacomCBS subscription streaming video service CBS All Access will be available on the Xfinity X1 platform this week, following the launch of the app on Xfinity Flex earlier this year. Xfinity is the first pay-TV provider to offer CBS’s branded streaming service, which is changing to Paramount+ in 2021. The platform joins Netflix and YouTube as major third-party SVOD services available directly to Xfinity subs.

The partnership is notable considering NBCUniversal operates SVOD competitor Peacock, which launched nationwide this summer.

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X1 subs will be able to All Access’ offering of more than 20,000 episodes and movies from BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures, in addition to original series like “Star Trek: Discovery,” with new episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays; the upcoming limited event series “The Stand,” premiering Dec. 17 and based on Stephen King’s best-selling novel; as well as the recently debuted docuseries “Texas 6,” and many more.

All Access also offers live streaming access to major sports, including some of the world’s biggest soccer leagues, along with CBSN for 24/7 news, CBS Sports HQ for sports news and analysis, and ET Live for entertainment coverage. For Flex customers, All Access enables them to stream local CBS-affiliate stations live, including CBS Sports broadcasts.

To launch the app and access the streaming service over the Internet, X1 customers can say “CBS All Access” into the Xfinity Voice Remote. They can also say the title of an All Access Originals or browse All Access programming within collections curated by Xfinity’s team of TV editors, such as “Explore CBS All Access” and “December Premieres.” X1 subs can also find All Access children’s programming, which includes more than 1,000 episodes, including new seasons of “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” “Danger Mouse,” and related series from Nickelodeon. X1 and Flex customers will continue to All Access availability when the service is rebranded as Paramount+ early next year.

ViacomCBS Releases First Environmental, Social and Governance Report

In the aftermath of the #MeToo movement, racial injustice protests and coronavirus pandemic, ViacomCBS, like other media giants, established an in-house corporate position aimed at elevating the company’s social, workplace and pandemic-responses. The report focuses on ViacomCBS’s on-screen content and social impact, workforce and culture, sustainable production and operations.

“ViacomCBS is focused on how we use the power of our platforms as content creators to meaningfully impact the issues that matter to our employees, audiences, partners, communities and investors,” CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement.

Bakish said  that as a “global content powerhouse,” ViacomCBS, which includes Paramount Pictures, BET, MTV and Nickelodeon, has a unique role shaping culture, social attitudes and societal outcomes.

“We’re committed to the opportunity and responsibility that comes with this reach and are proud to share how our company is taking action in our ESG report,” he said.

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Among the areas addressed in this report include:

  • Committed $100 million to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including support for non-staff employees on ViacomCBS productions and other entertainment industry workers through third-party organizations and relief funds.
  • Worked to keep employees and the public safe and at home during the pandemic by leveraging ViacomCBS brands and on-air talent to amplify official health guidance through the #AloneTogether campaign, which consisted of 174,000 television spots, social media posts and other content across company platforms.

 

On-screen Content and Social Impact:

  • Responded to nationwide protests over victims of racial violence and police killings by donating an additional $5 million to social justice and criminal justice reform organizations, participating in the industry-wide “Blackout Tuesday” day of reflection on June 2 and honoring the death of George Floyd by going dark for eight minutes and 46 seconds on ten networks. The monetary donations build on the company’s standing contributions each year to a range of community organizations.
  • Set several new goals to increase diversity behind the camera, including at least 40% representation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in the writers’ rooms of CBS and Showtime Network shows during the 2021-22 programming season.

 

Workforce and Culture:

  • Expanded company-wide efforts to strengthen ViacomCBS’ diversity and inclusion, including through its commitment to publicly disclose the diversity data of its workforce.
  • Continued to hold its annual Global Inclusion Week, an expansive multi-day experience featuring speakers, immersive sessions and interactive workshops designed to raise awareness and foster conversation about diversity and inclusion, and inspire a sense of engagement and belonging across the company.

 

Sustainable Production and Operations:

  • Committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in line with the requirements of the Paris Agreement, continuing a declining trend that saw GHG emissions at legacy Viacom drop by 20% from 2014-2018.
  • Increased the number of productions following the Green Production Guide to minimize the environmental impact of filming and derived 10% of the company’s global energy use from renewable sources.

 

“While we know we have more work to do, this ESG report reflects our dedication to greater transparency and disclosure as we continue to develop our ESG strategy and strengthen our impact in these areas going forward,”  said Crystal Barnes, SVP of corporate social responsibility and ESG. “This is just one of the many steps ahead on our ESG journey.”

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.