Comcast, ViacomCBS Bosses Reportedly Met to Discuss International Streaming Pact

Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts, and ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone and CEO Bob Bakish reportedly met recently to discuss partnering in an international streaming video venture.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, said the executives met at the end of June in New York to discuss possible scenarios in which the two media giants could partner in advancing their respective streaming platforms.

Shari Redstone

Comcast’s NBCUniversal launched the Peacock SVOD/AVOD platform last summer, while ViacomCBS transitioned CBS All Access into Paramount+ in March. Both platforms have international aspirations in an attempt to remain competitive with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

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Bob Bakish

Working together could benefit the companies as Comcast’s Roberts has publicly expressed a desire to find business partners for international expansion. Paramount+ plans to operate in 45 countries by 2022.

Netflix has seen the bulk of its subscriber growth originate outside the United States, while one-third of Disney+ subs come from India. Comcast also owns streaming service Now TV in the United Kingdom, operated by its Sky satellite TV subsidiary.

Regardless, strange bedfellows is indeed a possibility considering that since its launch, Peacock has generated 45 million sign-ups, but reportedly only about 10 million paying subscribers. ViacomCBS in May disclosed that its Paramount+, Showtime OTT and BET+ platforms had a combined paying sub base of 35.9 million.

By comparison, Netflix had 208 million subs at the end of March, a tally that could be closer to 210 million through the streamer’s fiscal second quarter, ended June 30. Prime Video touted 175 million subs two months ago, while Disney+ tops 103 million.

ViacomCBS, Charter Ink New Carriage Deal, Includes Streaming

ViacomCBS and Charter Communications July 15 announced a comprehensive multiyear distribution agreement for the continued carriage of ViacomCBS’s leading portfolio of broadcast, entertainment, news and sports networks, in addition to licensing ViacomCBS’s suite of streaming services, including Paramount+, Pluto TV, BET+ and Noggin, for future distribution to Spectrum customers.

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“We are pleased to have reached a new deal to deliver ViacomCBS’s expansive portfolio of popular brands and premium programming for Spectrum audiences to enjoy, plus greater choice in how they consume our content,” Ray Hopkins, president of U.S. Networks Distribution for ViacomCBS, said in a statement. “Charter is a valued partner, and we look forward to deepening our long-standing relationship.”

Added Tom Montemagno, EVP of programming acquisition for Charter, said, “These comprehensive agreements with ViacomCBS recognize the fast-changing pace of the subscription video business and provide us the flexibilities to adapt for the benefit of our customers while also furthering our strategic interests in the advanced advertising realm and aggregated video store concept with the addition of the streaming apps.”

ViacomCBS and Charter also will expand their existing collaboration around addressable media and advanced advertising. Others terms of the agreements were not disclosed.

Dan Cohen Expands Senior Management Duties at ViacomCBS

Dan Cohen, president of ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group, is adding distribution of ViacomCBS International Studios content to his group’s mandate, which will now oversee all ViacomCBS content licensing and distribution globally.

He had been named president of global distribution in June 2020, after serving as president of global content licensing at ViacomCBS since Viacom and CBS merged in December 2019.

Prior to assuming senior management duties at ViacomCBS, Cohen served as president of worldwide home entertainment and television distribution for Paramount Pictures.

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The expanded responsibilities are part of ViacomCBS’s moves announced June 23 to unify the company’s U.S. and international businesses under a simplified global leadership structure.

Separately, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins were each promoted to the role of president and CEO, with global oversight for their respective brand groups, MTV Entertainment Group and Nickelodeon. In addition, George Cheeks, president and CEO CBS, expanded his role to include responsibility for a global content strategy across ViacomCBS’s FTA networks around the world.

All three continue to report to Bob Bakish, president and CEO of ViacomCBS, and work closely with Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International.

ViacomCBS Reorganizes Streaming Team With Focus on Paramount+

ViacomCBS June 23 announced a revamped content management team for its global streaming services, spearheaded by Paramount+.

The media giant named Tanya Giles chief programming officer, streaming, to help chart content strategy for Paramount+ and Pluto TV globally. Giles, who is currently GM of MTV Entertainment Group, will oversee and execute a holistic programming strategy for the global content offering across both Paramount+ and Pluto TV, maximizing mix, prioritization, timing and impact of ViacomCBS resources, franchises and brands to drive sustained audience acquisition and engagement.

She reports to Tom Ryan, founder of Pluto TV and CEO of ViacomCBS Streaming.

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“Tanya is a stellar media executive who brings a deep familiarity with our brands and audiences, as well as an unmatched talent for harnessing data to make high-impact programming decisions,” Ryan said in a statement.

Tanya Giles

“The strong launch and early months of Paramount+ have demonstrated the power and potential of our platform, as well as audiences’ appetite for a broad and diverse array of content, all in one place,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said in a statement. “The moves we are making today will accelerate that mission by putting ViacomCBS’s most powerful assets — world-class content, brands, global infrastructure and expertise behind our platforms as we pursue the global opportunity in streaming.”

Indeed, in addition to Giles’ promotion, ViacomCBS is tasking the existing executives with new global responsibilities for creating a mix of content — from originals to extensions of key franchises — that help differentiate Paramount+ from the competition.

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George Cheeks, CEO of CBS, will also serve as chief content officer of news and sports for Paramount+, extending content from CBS News and CBS Sports to the streaming service.

Jim Gianopulos, CEO of Paramount Pictures, will also serve as chief content officer for movies at Paramount+, bringing to bear the depth and breadth of filmmaking expertise at Paramount Pictures.

Bruce Gillmer, president of music, music talent, programming and events, will also serve as chief content officer of music for Paramount+, responsible for leveraging ViacomCBS’s global scale, industry relationships and library of IP for Paramount+.

Chris McCarthy, president of MTV Entertainment Group, will also serve as CCO of unscripted entertainment and adult animation for Paramount+, tasked with unlocking and expanding ViacomCBS’s catalog of global unscripted franchises and formats, as well as expanding marquee Adult Animation IP for Paramount+. 

David Nevins, chairman/CEO Showtime Networks, will also serve as CCO of scripted originals at Paramount+, responsible for building on Paramount+’s track record of scripted originals, including both dramas and comedies.

Nicole Clemens will broaden her responsibilities as president of Paramount Television Studios (PTVS), to include president of Paramount+ original scripted series. Building on her current role overseeing PTVS, where she continues to report to Gianopulos, she now will lead original scripted content for Paramount+, reporting to Nevins.

Brian Robbins, president of kids and family entertainment, will also serve as CCO, responsible for growing the global portfolio of the full range of live-action and animated kids & family programming — both episodic and film — on Paramount+, building on what is among the most popular content on the service.

As part of the realignment, Kelly Day, president of streaming and COO of ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI), will work closely with Giles and ViacomCBS’s content leaders to ensure the company is executing against its global streaming strategy. She will be responsible for maximizing the global content slate, bringing ViacomCBS’s international content portfolio to Paramount+ services around the world, and continuing the rollout of Paramount+ in international markets. Day will continue to report to Tom Ryan and Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO of VCNI.

Scott Mills will continue to oversee BET+ in his capacity as president of BET, reporting to Nevins.

“Our content leaders know their genres better than anyone and have been integral to building a strong slate for Paramount+ and growing its audience,” Ryan said.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish: Pluto TV to Exceed $1 Billion in Revenue by Q4

ViacomCBS has put much of its content distribution future on the Paramount+ subscription streaming service, but the media giant is already dominating the ad-supported streaming market, said ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish.

Speaking at the virtual Evercore ISI Inaugural TMT Conference, Bakish said the global AVOD market, which is exploding as consumers migrate away from pay-TV and toward over-the-top video, is going to be worth about $50 billion in the next four years. Leading the bull run: Pluto TV, which ViacomCBS acquired in 2019 for $340 million. Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan is now CEO of streaming at ViacomCBS.

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“[Pluto TV] is the U.S. market leader, and it’s also undergoing rapid international expansion, making us a global leader as well,” Bakish said. “You look at the U.S., and based on all the data we see, we lead on the [50 million monthly average users] side, we lead on the viewership side and we lead on the revenue side.”

Bakish said that when Pluto was acquired, it had generated about $70 million in revenue in the prior year (2018). On a run-rate basis, in Q4 of 2021 this year, the CEO said Pluto will cross the $1 billion level.

“We expect it to be comfortably above $1 billion for full year 2022,” he said. “That is the power of Pluto TV.”

While the platform is essentially still a U.S. business, it is expanding to 25 foreign markets this year.

“So we see where this thing is going,” Bakish said. “We’ve seen where it’s gone in the U.S., and it’s got a ways to go, and we see where it’s going internationally. I couldn’t be more excited about Pluto. I don’t think we get enough credit, quite frankly, for it.”

Ad-Supported Paramount+ Streaming Service Has a Launch Date: June 7

ViacomCBS’s branded subscription streaming platform Paramount+ now has an official launch date for an ad-supported option: June 7. The SVOD service launched March 4 in the U.S. priced at $5.99 monthly with limited ads. The new ad-supported tier replaces that option and is priced at $4.99. A commercial-free tier costs $9.99 monthly.

Competitor Hulu charges $5.99 monthly with ads, $11.99 without. Disney+ remains ad-free at $7.99, while Netflix and Amazon Prime Video charge $8.99 and $12.99 monthly, respectively, without ads. Neither service streams commercials.

ViacomCBS ended the most-recent fiscal quarter with 36 million combined Paramount+ and Showtime OTT subscribers globally. The two services topped 19.4 million subs in the U.S. through Feb. 24.

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Bob Bakish: ViacomCBS Looking to Spend $5 Billion on Streaming Content by 2024

ViacomCBS’s ambitious plans to average an original new movie a week on Paramount+ in 2022 now has a price tag: $5 billion. That’s the figure CEO Bob Bakish told shareholders on the May 25 virtual annual meeting.

The company spent a total of $15 billion on all content in 2020, with plans to spend $5 billion exclusively on streaming content by 2024.

ViacomCBS is adding 1,000 movies to the $4.99 monthly with ads ($9.99 without) platform in June; elevating the total to 2,500 movies by July.

“That number includes content exclusively for our streaming services and some allocation of highly valuable content that we’ll use across both streaming and traditional [television and theatrical distribution],” Bakish said.

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Bob Bakish

As previously reported, in June Paramount+ will exclusively debut the new science-fiction thriller Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Antoine Fuqua, skipping theaters in the process. It was originally slated to launch in theaters on Sept. 24.

Paramount Pictures shortened to 45 days theatrical windows for  A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 in an effort to expedite access to the SVOD platform. New “Paranormal Activity” and “Pet Sematary” releases will also forgo theatrical distribution.

“You will see us scale up more of our content on Paramount+,” Bakish said, adding that select scripted series such as supernatural drama “Evil” would be moving from linear channels to streaming.

“Season one was a hit on Netflix,” Bakish said. “Season two will be moving exclusively to Paramount+.”

CBS series “Seal Team” will debut select episodes on the network this fall before moving the entire season onto streaming.

CEO: Paramount+ Free Trial Conversion Better Than CBS All Access

When Paramount+ launched March 4, absorbing the existing CBS All Access subscription streaming service, new subscribers were offered a generous 30-day free trial period. That policy, which ended March 31, resulted in higher conversion rates to paid subscriptions ($5.99 monthly with ads; $9.99 without) than had occurred at All Access, according to Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS.

Speaking May 6 on the company’s fiscal call, Bakish said a strategy of frontloading Paramount+ with movies and the Super Bowl helped reduce churn and increase the paid base.

“Believe it or not, the conversion rate was actually marginally above our historical trial conversion rates,” Bakish said. “So we are happy about that.”

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According to Parks Associates, about 30% of free trial users convert to paid subscriptions, with just 1% of users becoming so-called “serial trialers,” jumping from one free subscription period to the next. Most SVOD platforms have reduced free trial periods to seven days.

“Most consumers use trials for their intended purpose of trying out a service before deciding whether or not to continue as a paid subscriber,” read the Parks report.

Bakish said Paramount+ is focused on “ramping up” original content from throughout the ViacomCBS brands, in addition to releasing a new movie weekly on the platform, beginning in 2022. The platform will exclusively debut Mark Wahlberg’s new sci-fi thriller Infinite in June.

“Both conversion and churn [at Paramount+] improved in April, both versus prior-year and versus March,” Bakish said. “We feel great about what we’re seeing in this area.”

Paramount+ ended the quarter with 36 million subs globally when combined with Showtime OTT. The two services topped 19.4 million subs in the U.S. through Feb. 24.

Paramount+ to Debut New Mark Wahlberg Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Infinite’

Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) in June will exclusively debut the new science-fiction thriller Infinite, starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Antoine Fuqua, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said on the May 6 first-quarter (ended March 31) fiscal call.

The movie will skip theaters, Bakish said. It was originally slated to launch in theaters on Sept. 24 — then subsequently got pushed up to Memorial Day, according to Box Office Mojo.

The move mirrors WarnerMedia’s strategy to release the entire 2021 Warner Bros. theatrical slate concurrently on its streaming service HBO Max and in theaters — a strategy corporate parent AT&T has attributed to ongoing Max sub growth.

Paramount, which generated a record low $1 million in revenue during the 90-day fiscal period due to shuttered theaters, had previously announced shortened theatrical windows for  A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 in an effort to expedite access on Paramount+. New “Paranormal Activity” and “Pet Sematary” releases will now also forgo theatrical distribution for the streamer.

Paramount previously licensed Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and the comedy The Lovebirds to Netflix. The studio also licensed rights to Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, starring Michael B. Jordan, and Eddie Murphy sequel Coming 2 America to Amazon Prime Video. Oscar winner The United States vs. Billie Holiday was licensed to Hulu.

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Paramount+ will add 1,000 movies in June as part of a “Mountain of Movies” marketing campaign designed to upgrade the platform’s title count to 2,500.

“All of this is a preview to a substantial ramping up of original movies next year, when we expect to begin averaging an original movie a week in 2022,” Bakish said.

Paramount+, Showtime OTT Log 36 Million Combined Subscribers Globally

It’s a streaming world at ViacomCBS as the media company reported that its upstart Paramount+ SVOD service (formerly CBS All Access) and Showtime OTT subscription streaming video platforms had a combined 36 million subs worldwide through the first quarter (ended March 31). That’s up 6 million subs since the previously-reported period.

ViacomCBS did not update total domestic Paramount+ and Showtime OTT subscribers, which ended Feb. 24 with 19.6 million combined members. CBS All Access became Paramount+ on March 4.

On Paramount+, the biggest drivers of sign-ups were live sports and specials, including the Super Bowl, NCAA Basketball Tournament, UEFA Champions League Soccer, “Oprah With Meghan and Harry” and “The Grammy Awards,” as well as kids’ content, including programming from the “SpongeBob” universe and “iCarly,” and original programming, including “The Stand” and “Star Trek: Discovery.”

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Original programming, content from cable brands and Paramount movies drove almost half of Paramount+ subscriber engagement. Globally, Nickelodeon programming was a significant driver of sign-ups and
engagement on Paramount+.

Next up for Paramount+ is Australia, which launches there on Aug. 11, featuring Paramount movies, Showtime, and Paramount+ Originals, in addition to a cross-section of product from cable brands and Network 10.

“By the end of 2021, we’ll have launched subscription streaming services led by Paramount+ in 25 markets,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said on the fiscal call.

Showtime OTT delivered its best quarter ever in sign-ups, streams and hours watched, driven by originals, including “Your Honor” and “Shameless,” as well as theatricals.

Separately, AVOD platform Pluto TV saw monthly average users increase to nearly 50 million, adding 6 million global users in the quarter. Pluto TV’s international expansion has continued, launching in France.