CBS All Access Gets Grammy, ‘Star Trek’ Boost

CBS All Access, the standalone subscription streaming service from ViacomCBS, reportedly saw record subscriber growth in January, thanks to high-profile showcases, including the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards and the premiere of “Star Trek: Picard.”

The Jan. 26 Grammys telecast included a promotion that offered a free month of service to new subscribers.

“The new [sub] records we’ve experienced due to ‘Star Trek: Picard,’ the Grammys and a fantastic season of football are a phenomenal way to kick off what will be a fantastic year for CBS All Access,” Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer, ViacomCBS, and president and CEO, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

Follow us on Instagram

CBS did not disclose actual subscriber numbers. Indeed, CBS revealed that 18.7 million viewers watched the telecast, which was down 6% from 19.9 million last year.

All Access, similar to Amazon Prime Video, is not afraid to stream live sports, including NFL broadcasts and playoff games. In the most-recent fiscal call, acting CEO Joe Ianniello said All Access and Showtime OTT had a combined 10 million subscribers.

CBS said The Grammys increased All Access sign-ups 80% from the same time last year, while dedicated viewership increased 30%.

The media company said the new original “Star Trek” series starring Patrick Stewart bumped up overall streaming (which includes Amazon Prime Channels) 115%, in addition to 180% spike on All Access — the highest streaming increases since the last original Star Trek series, ” Star Trek: Discovery.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“All Access continues to build upon its great mix of programming — from original series, to sports and special events — and we’ve strategically programmed 2020 to bring subscribers an ‘always on’ calendar of must-watch series and events,” DeBevoise said.

ViacomCBS Networks International Reorganizes Management Team

ViacomCBS Jan. 14 unveiled a management restructure of its international networks division, which is intended to leverage the company’s expanded operations following the $12 billion re-merger between Viacom and CBS.

The reorganization aims to simplify ViacomCBS Networks International into two brand groups and three pan-regional management hubs, reporting to David Lynn, CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International (VCNI).

ViacomCBS Networks International, a unit of ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIAC), features a portfolio comprised of Network 10, Channel 5, Telefe, Viacom 18, ViacomCBS International Studios, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Paramount Network and Pluto TV among others.

In addition to offering innovative streaming services and digital video products, ViacomCBS Networks International provides production, distribution and advertising for partners on five continents and across more than 180 countries.

David Lynn

Follow us on Instagram

Kerry Taylor, currently EVP of MTV International and chief marketing officer for VCNI U.K. has been promoted to EVP of VCNI entertainment & youth brands, reporting to David Lynn and Chris McCarthy, president of entertainment & youth brands, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks.

Taylor’s new remit will include international oversight of MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network and BET. Taylor has been with MTV International since 2007 and has been co-head of MTV International since 2012. Taylor is credited with reinventing the MTV international brand positioning, developing a successful global franchise strategy and commissioning content that drove international ratings successes such as “Geordie Shore,” “The Charlotte Show,” “Ex on The Beach” and “Just Tattoo of Us”.

Kerry Taylor

Taylor will continue to work with Bruce Gillmer, EVP, music & talent programming/events, ViacomCBS. Jill Offman, who previously led Comedy Central and Paramount Network internationally will switch to the international studio business, as EVP of ViacomCBS International Studios U.K.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Jules Borkent has been promoted to EVP, VCNI kids & family, reporting to Lynn and Brian Robbins, president, kids & family entertainment, ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks. Borkent has been with Nickelodeon since 2001, having led channel operations and content strategy including programming, acquisitions, originals and digital for Nickelodeon International, which has delivered continued growth during his tenure.

Jules Borkent

Working in alignment with Nickelodeon U.S., Borkent established the international programming council and manages a multi-million-dollar content investment across kids & family programming.

“Kerry and Jules are exceptional creative and strategic professionals,” Lynn said in a statement. “Kerry brings equal parts marketing acumen and a genuine connection to the global youth zeitgeist which has driven MTV’s successful international franchise strategy and ratings success. Jules is a respected industry voice, who’s dedicated to bringing unique and diverse content to Nickelodeon audiences around the world.”

Lynn said consolidating international brands into two groups would more closely align the businesess with ViacomCBS’ U.S. brands, affording “maximum value” from the media giant’s content investment and libraries.

Meanwhile, Maria Kyriacou, who most recently was president of International for ITV Studios, will join the newly expanded division on Feb. 3, with a new brief as president, ViacomCBS Networks U.K. & Australia, which includes responsibility for Ireland, New Zealand and Israel.

Maria Kyriacou

With focused oversight of ViacomCBS’s operations in its two most valuable international markets, including its free-to-air broadcast networks, Channel 5 and Network 10, Kyriacou will seek content and commercial synergies between the company’s portfolio of networks and streaming services across these English-language markets.

Paul Anderson, who is CEO of Network 10, additionally becomes EVP, ViacomCBS Networks Australia and New Zealand with immediate effect, reporting to Kyriacou.

At the same time, Raffaele Annecchino, who is currently president of the division’s operations across Southern and Western Europe, the Middle East and Africa, will also take on an expanded role in the new structure, with additional responsibility for the company’s operations in Northern and Eastern Europe and key Asian markets.

Raffaele Annecchino

As President, ViacomCBS Networks Europe, Middle East, Africa & Asia (EMEAA), Annecchino goal will be to deliver additional growth in European markets through the closer alignment of its operations across the continent as part of an EMEA structure. With a track record of driving market-beating growth from both on-screen and off-screen activities in the markets for which he currently has responsibility, Annecchino will focus on developing scale in the company’s operations in EMEAA in addition to continuing to be responsible for VCNI’s mobile strategy.

J.C. Acosta

JC Acosta will be the third of the division’s senior pan-regional leaders, having recently been promoted to president, ViacomCBS Networks Americas. In this role, Acosta is responsible for the company’s operations across Latin America — including the key markets of Argentina, Brazil and Mexico — as well as in Canada and the U.S. Hispanic market.

He is tasked with the ongoing expansion of ViacomCBS’s portfolio of networks, streaming services and associated businesses across the region including: its fast-growing Studios business in the Americas; Argentinian free-to-air broadcast market leader, Telefe; and, digital services including Porta Dos Fundos.

Both Borkent and Acosta succeed Pierluigi Gazzolo, who prior to his recently announced promotion to president of studios and OTT for ViacomCBS Networks International, was president, VCNI Americas and EVP of Nickelodeon International. Gazzolo, who also reports to Lynn, assumed his new dedicated role on the 1st of this year.

Pierluigi Gazzolo

“ViacomCBS is truly a global leader in terms of the quality, volume and range of content we produce and own and we aim to exploit the incredible pipelines at our disposal to deliver exceptional growth across international markets, not just for ourselves but for our partners as well,” Lynn said.

As a result of these regional changes, Mark Whitehead, president & managing director of VCNI Asia Pacific, will be leaving the company, at the end of January.

“I am extremely grateful for Mark’s many contributions to our ongoing success,” Lynn said. “He has played the leading role in transforming our operations across Asia to the point where they have just delivered their highest ever rate of annual growth. Mark leaves us excellently positioned in key markets across the region to continue on an exceptional growth trajectory.”

CBS All Access, Showtime Top Combined 10 Million Subs

ViacomCBS’ standalone subscription streaming video services have more than 10 million combined subscribers — up from 8 million previously announced — but down from the 16 million subs suggested by acting CEO Joe Ianniello in the most-recent fiscal call.

Speaking Jan. 12 at the Television Critics Assn. winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif., Marc DeBevoise, chief digital officer and boss of CBS Interactive, said the services have been growing subs by 60% annually.

“We’re in a great position to hit our goals of 25 million subscribers by 2022,” DeBevoise said.

Follow us on Instagram

The executive, along with Julie McNamara, head of All Access Originals, said the two services’ appeal to subscribers underscores their diversity of content, including catalog and original.

“I think that’s pretty unique,” DeBevoise said.

McNamara said competing against new services Apple TV+, Disney+ and pending platforms HBO Max and Peacock, revolves around the confidence executives have for proprietary platforms.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“I think we’ve seen with other services, the kind of pro and con of how that works, and you’ve got to have the creative confidence and keep going out there with shows people want to see, and I do believe that most consumers out there will follow their hearts, to some extent, in terms of the content being really desirable for them,” she said.

Regardless, Ianniello calculated the 16 million sub count by combining traditional pay-TV subs accessing Showtime and All Access as well as standalone direct-to-consumer and online TV subs streaming programming through third-party platforms such as Sling TV and AT&T TV Now.

“We think [the overall sub count] is important because there is a lot of headwind in the traditional [pay-TV] business and our point is, when you factor all of that in, we are [actually] growing subs,” he said last October. “So, that’s why we thought that [16 million] statistic was meaningful … that consumers are seeking out our content on other platforms, which bodes well for our future.”

 

Oh, What a Year — With Transformational Changes, Home Entertainment in 2019 Got Smaller — and Bigger

The phrase “transformational change” has been used so much it’s become a cliché — and yet there really is no better way to describe what happened in not just home entertainment, but also the entertainment industry overall, in 2019.

The completion in March of the Walt Disney Co.’s purchase of 20th Century Fox saw the number of major studios drop to five from six. Some of the home entertainment sector’s most familiar faces were suddenly gone, including Mike Dunn, the longtime leader of Fox’s home entertainment unit, and Danny Kaye, the visionary behind Fox Innovation Labs. Later, in the summer, Janice Marinelli, Disney’s home entertainment chief, also exited in a surprise move, given that she had opened an office on the Fox studio lot and was reportedly screening staffers.

In November, two new streaming giants emerged to take on longtime leader Netflix, Apple TV+ and, most significantly, Disney+.

Meanwhile, a new flavor of streaming gathered momentum: free to consumers, paid for by advertisers. Among the heavyweights jumping into what’s known as “AVOD” are ViacomCBS, with its Pluto TV acquisition, and Comcast Corp., which in December was reported to be in advanced talks to acquire Xumo TV, which boasts more than 140 digital channels of programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment.

The overall impact of all these developments on home entertainment: It got smaller — and bigger.

Smaller, because the traditional transactional business model that has defined home entertainment since its birth more than 40 years ago has increasingly come under fire, with subscription streaming, in particular, gobbling up more and more consumer attention — and dollars — that previously would have gone toward buying or renting movies, either on disc or through digital retailers.

But also bigger, because streaming, in its various incarnations, is now widely accepted as being part of home entertainment — which is now broadly defined as people watching what they want, on demand. There’s even a new name for all of this — direct-to-consumer — which was first adopted by Disney and is now used interchangeably with “home entertainment.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Bob Buchi, president of Paramount Home Entertainment, says 2019 “was the year of transition.”

“From media mergers and changing consumer viewing habits to the explosion of streaming services, the landscape has shifted dramatically,” he says.

The Nov. 1 launch of Apple TV+ marked the tech giant’s entry into the content business, with nine original series. One of them, “The Morning Show,” picked up several Golden Globe nominations from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), a first for a new streaming service.

Less than two weeks later, Disney launched its much-ballyhooed Disney+, with a full menu of in-demand movies and series — including the “Star Wars” spinoff “The Mandalorian.” Disney said more than 10 million people signed up for the service in the first 24 hours. By the end of November, the service had 24 million subscribers, according to estimates from Wall Street firm Cowen & Co. (Netflix as of October had more than 60 million domestic subs.)

“It’s an exciting time and we believe we have a unique and significant role to play,” Ricky Strauss, president of content and marketing for Disney+, told Media Play News on the eve of the service’s launch. “Disney+ will compete based on the unparalleled strength of our brands, the quality of our intellectual property, and expertise in high-quality video streaming.”

And yet industry insiders insist that despite streaming’s growth, there’s room for transactional — largely because new theatrical films, particularly the blockbusters, aren’t available on SVOD services. This distinction has prompted FandangoNow, one of the big digital retailers, to boldly proclaim on its home page, “New releases not on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu subscriptions.”

“Because we’re the first point of entry for fans to see movies in theaters, and first at home, we’ve seen a significant growth among consumers who are excited to own movies as soon as they’re available digitally,” says Cameron Douglas, head of FandangoNow. “Fans looking for high-quality content right out of theaters, including 4K HDR movies, don’t have to wait until they arrive later on subscription services, and innovative deals like rental binge bundles and the availability on new platforms keep them coming back to transactional digital services like our own.”

“New movie releases continue to be sought out by consumers during the first window in the home amidst the frenzied buzz around new streaming services,” adds Michael Bonner, EVP of digital distribution for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. “While there’s no denying the landscape is becoming more competitive, this business has successfully co-existed with abundant availability of non-transactional content for a long time and we expect it to continue to do so.”

“There is space — and demand — for both transactional content as well as streaming — just as there is consumer interest in both digital and physical,” says Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of trade association DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Beyond new releases, streamers have a limited selection of older films and TV shows, particularly with their increased focus on original content.

“For many consumers, their streaming options are good enough,” says Mark Fisher, president and CEO of home entertainment trade association the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA). “But just like the days when the first video rental stores opened and made it easy for the consumer to watch anything they wanted to watch when they wanted to watch it, online VOD retailers offer that same opportunity to the consumer. I know that every time I see a montage of old movie clips, I’m driven to watch titles that aren’t new releases — and these are titles not readily (or easily) found on the streaming services.”

Sales of digital movies, in particular, were a bright spot, with consumer spending up nearly 7% in the first nine months of 2019, according to trade association DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

“We’ve continued to see growth in EST (electronic sellthrough) — both in our new releases and in our catalog,” says Jason Spivak, EVP of distribution, for Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. “Certainly the enhanced consumer experience enabled by Movies Anywhere is part of that, as is increasing consumer connectivity in their homes. EST continues to gain prominence in our marketing planning, release data scheduling, and retailer partnerships.”

Ron Schwartz, president of Lionsgate Home Entertainment, says Lionsgate EST revenue grew 30% this year, “four to five times faster than the overall industry. With increased collaboration between studios and retailers, and more offerings such as dynamic bundling, customers are starting to build their lockers up to 10-plus titles. Recent data shows that once a customer gets to between 10 and 12 titles in their locker, their EST purchasing behavior doubles.”

In addition to selling movies, digital retailers also offer them for a la carte streaming, the digital equivalent of a physical movie rental. Redbox remains the only retailer to offer both digital and physical rentals, the former through an e-commerce site and the latter, through a network of more than 40,000 kiosks situated outside (or inside) large retailers like Walmart, convenience and drug stores, and other retailers.

“Redbox owns the transactional space with more transactions across physical and digital formats — for rental and purchase — than any other transactional provider,” says Redbox CEO Galen Smith.

In 2019, he said, Redbox expanded its offering of 4K Ultra HD discs into new markets, and stepped up promotions as well, with its Back to the Movies campaign and a joint Dinner & A Movie offering with meal delivery service DoorDash.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In addition, Redbox Entertainment, a new content acquisition and production division, has further transformed Redbox into a multi-channel content provider and programmer. Launched in October, the new division is headed by Marc Danon, who spent eights at Lionsgate, most recently as SVP of acquisitions and business development.

Disc sales in 2019 continued to decline in the low double digits, with DEG reporting that in the first nine months of the year, combined 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Disc, and DVD revenues were down 18.5% to an estimated $2.3 billion — exactly half what they amounted to five years ago, in 2014.

But studios continued to support the disc. And while a trend among smaller titles is to release them only on DVD and digital, bypassing Blu-ray Disc, major new releases are still getting significant marketing campaigns behind them, particularly for the 4K Ultra HD editions. The UHD disc also made headlines last August when the UHD Alliance, along with leaders in consumer electronics, the Hollywood studios and members of the filmmaking community, announced collaboration on a new viewing mode for watching movies called “Filmmaker Mode,” designed to reproduce the content in the way the creator intended. Filmmaker Mode, bowing next year, will allow viewers to enjoy a more cinematic experience on their UHD TVs when watching movies by disabling all post-processing (e.g. motion smoothing, etc.) so the movie or television show is displayed as it was intended by the filmmaker, preserving the correct aspect ratios, colors and frame rates.

“For the time being, 4K UHD is still the gold standard for at-home content,” says Jim Wuthrich, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment & Games. “With hardware costs dropping and television functionality such as Filmmaker Mode being made available next year, there is still a great value proposition in owning content in 4K UHD, both physically and digitally, as is still represents the best home-viewing experience.”

Follow us on Instagram

“As evidenced by the exceptional growth of 4K UHD to date, it is clear that there is a sizable appetite for premium high-definition products, and that format plays a meaningful role in boosting retail traffic,” says Eddie Cunningham, president of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Retail partnerships are key, Cunningham adds. “Given that physical and digital transactional consumption rates are remaining steady year over year and that disc purchases are making up more than half of that consumption, there’s no question that movie buyers continue to be vitally important to retail,” he says. “At no other time in our industry has it been more critical to ensure that we work together to retain the loyalty of movie consumers, creating urgency for our products and delivering the utmost value, quality, accessibility and convenience possible.”

 

Comcast Eyeing Ad-Supported VOD

With ViacomCBS staking much of its over-the-top video future on Pluto TV, the ad-supported video-on-demand platform, Comcast reportedly is considering joining the AVOD market that also includes Tubi TV.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources, reports the cable giant is in advanced talks to acquire Xumo TV, the Irvine, Calif.-based service offering more than 140 digital channels of programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment. Content partnerships include CBSN, People TV, College Humor, and History, as well as the PGA Tour, among others.

The Xumo app is currently available on Roku and embedded in several smart TVs from Samsung, Panasonic and Vizio — the latter based in Irvine as well.

Follow us on Instagram

Comcast unit NBC Universal is launching SVOD platform — Peacock — in April, 2020. Acquiring Xumo could help the cabler sustain its pay-TV legacy through an ad-based business model in the rapidly evolving digital ecosystem.

Comcast isn’t commenting on the scuttlebutt, but CFO Michael Cavanagh, speaking Dec. 9 at the UBS 46th Annual Global Media and Communications confab in New York, said the company was entertaining the AVOD market in response to a SVOD landscape dominated by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney+.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We think we’ve got a pretty special opportunity [with AVOD], when you think about the relatively underserved segment of premium content ad-supported,” Cavanagh said. “Our work shows us that consumer demand is there.”

Indeed, since ViacomCBS acquired Pluto earlier this year for $340 million, the company has made the platform centerpiece to its global digital distribution strategy.

“Our focus on an investment in Pluto is evident,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said on the recent fiscal call. “In Q4 alone, Pluto launched 43 new channels and last month, Pluto Latino added 11 new channels given the platform of total 22 channels with over 4,000 hours of Spanish and Portuguese language programming.”

New AVOD roll-outs and improved ad-tech are expected to drive U.S. online video advertising revenue to $27 billion in 2023, according to IHS Markit Technology.

“The AVOD goldrush is here, and it represents a prime opportunity for service providers, new AVOD entrants and content companies,” said senior research analyst Sarah Henschel.

 

ViacomCBS Acquires Stake in Miramax

ViacomCBS has reportedly acquired 49% stake in Miramax, the film studio founded in 1979 by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and owned and operated over the years by several corporate suitors — including Disney.

Qatar-based owner BeIN Media Group sold the stake for $375 million, according to Variety, which first reported the deal.

The deal gives ViacomCBS joint ownership of Miramax’s catalog of 700 movies, 278 Academy Award nominations and 68 Oscar-winning titles, including four Best Picture awards for Chicago, Shakespeare In Love, The English Patient and No Country For Old Men.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

beIN will retain a 51% stake in Miramax and the distributor’s current leadership team.

“This partnership … will be a unique opportunity to gain access to a valuable library, deepening our already substantial pool of IP at a time when demand for premium content is only accelerating,” Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, said in a statement.

Indeed, expect Miramax titles to find their way onto ViacomCBS’ ad-supported Pluto TV service, as well other SVOD platforms CBS All Access and Showtime OTT, among others.

Follow us on Instagram

Other well-known Miramax titles include Pulp Fiction, Good Will Hunting, and Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, among others.

“We look forward to working closely with the Miramax management team as we explore new ways to deliver its titles across a variety of platforms and create new, compelling projects,” Bakish said.

Miramax content has been a steady supplier of home entertainment packaged media. Amazon says current bestselling Miramax DVDs include The Spy Kids Trilogy, Black X-Mas, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Smoke Signals and Rounders.

Pluto TV Adds Six Channels in U.K.

ViacomCBS’ ad-supported online TV service, Pluto TV, has added six channels in the United Kingdom, bringing to 80 channels now offered on the digital platform.

Launched in 2013, Pluto TV was acquired by Viacom earlier this year for $340 million as part of the media company’s aggressive digital distribution push and competitive alternative to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu.

Olivier Jollet, managing director Europe at Pluto TV, said the online service has “come a long way” since launching in the U.K. in late 2018.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We are looking forward for our audience to ending their year with our vast programming and kick-start the new decade with us,” Jollet said.

The new channels include:

Pluto TV Action, which brings adrenaline filled block­busters, energetic stars, and a strong dose of high-octane excitement.

Pluto TV Sci-Fi, which airs science fiction and fantasy movies that present visions of the future and apocalyptic worlds, as well as the best TV series in the galaxy, available at warp speed, 24 hours a day.

Pluto TV Thrillers, a dedicated thriller channel that does not venture into pure horror — it is for those who prefer chills over scares.

Follow us on Instagram

Get.Factual, a channel that takes its audience knee-deep into the unknown. As a dignified finish to a year of providing Pluto TV viewers with a robust offering of unscripted content, Get.Factual brings documentaries with thrilling perspectives about history and culture. Secrets will be exposed, and no question will be left unanswered as this channel covers topics like the story of Australia, the Middle Ages and the ascent of civilization.

Pluto TV Family, which joins Pluto TV’s growing line-up for kids and family, offering animated adventures to classic comedies.

Strongman Champions League World Series is the world’s biggest Strongman league. The strongest and best athletes in the world compete against each other over the course of 16 stages throughout the year. Series 15 and 16 of Strongman will get things started on December 23rd with more series added later.

ViacomCBS Dealing With OTT Video Largesse

Until this year, Viacom had scant over-the-top video product — Noggin, a $7.99 monthly service targeting young children with Nickelodeon-type fare.

Viacom in March acquired ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV for $340 million. This summer the media giant launched BET Plus — a $9.99 service targeting African-American streamers.

Following the re-merger with CBS Corp., Viacom inherited CBS All Access ($5.99), Showtime OTT ($10.99) and Smithsonian Channel Plus ($4.99) SVOD. In the process, Viacom has myriad OTT distribution while at the same time giving mixed signals about a unified ViacomCBS vision digital leadership going forward.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Speaking Dec. 9 with CNBC’s David Farber, Bob Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS, was asked about the fact that Marc DeBevoise, CEO of CBS Interactive, reports to him for the all digital assets. And  to Joe Ianniello, CEO of CBS, for CBS Interactive.

“That doesn’t sound like an efficient way to go about trying to extract synergies and the growth,” Faber asked Bakish.

Follow us on Instagram

The CEO claimed Viacom’s digital properties operated successfully under separate silos before the merger, a reality the merged companies could rejigger going forward.

Bakish agreed that working together on paper is different than in practice. He alluded to Viacom International originally operating independently and now as a multinational unit. Bakish added that when he became CEO in 2016 (replacing Philippe Dauman), Paramount Pictures operated independently, as did the company’s media networks.

“We took the last three years and really aligned that,” Bakish said.

He said ViacomCBS is putting forward an integrated company with one strategy. He said the revised blueprint would include paid and ad-supported content — with the widest access based on paid content.

“Today, in pay, [we’ve] got 10 million subs in SVOD in the U.S.,” Bakish said. “In free, [we’ve] got 20 million [monthly average users] at Pluto. We’ve got almost 200 million digital users. And we reached well over a billion through our broader business.”

He disagreed with the assertion that a high percentage of Viacom’s digital subs are promotional, rather than paying.

“That’s flat out wrong,” said the CEO, while declining to disclose actual digital revenue. Backish said the data would be revealed in 2020.

“You should expect some additional transparency in the streaming space,” he said. Viacom has heretofore just released Pluto viewership.

“You should expect that to broaden,” Bakish said. “We absolutely are going to operate as one ViacomCBS.”

 

 

 

CBS, Viacom Merger to Close Dec. 4

CBS Corp. and Viacom have announced that their pending merger is expected to close after market hours on Dec. 4.

Immediately following the closing, the combined company will be renamed ViacomCBS Inc., and it is expected to begin trading on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on Dec. 5 under the new ticker symbols “VIACA” and “VIAC,” according to the companies.

As part of the listing, ViacomCBS will also become eligible for future inclusion in the Nasdaq 100 index.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Speaking last August with CNBC, Robert Bakish, current Viacom CEO and future head of ViacomCBS, said the combined media company would offer “unmatched scale” with 140,000 television catalog episodes and 3,600 movies, including content from Paramount Pictures and CBS Studios.

The broadcast network’s early move toward direct-to-consumer content distribution with CBS All Access and Showtime OTT and Viacom’s acquisition of ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV has well-positioned the new media company in the streaming video era, he said.

“[That’s] not something people have talked about a lot [regarding the merger],” he said.  “You unite those two together and you really have a D-to-C ecosystem — very compelling — both with substantial, millions of users.”

More ViacomCBS Execs Announced

CBS and Viacom Nov. 18 announced additional senior appointments to ViacomCBS corporate leadership, effective upon closing of the merger.

Alex Berkett, SVP, corporate development and strategy, Viacom, will become EVP, corporate development and strategy, leading ViacomCBS’ efforts to identify, pursue and execute strategic growth opportunities, including acquisitions, partnerships, investments and joint ventures, across all of ViacomCBS’ businesses and geographies.

Nancy Phillips will serve as EVP, chief people officer, and lead the ViacomCBS global human resources organization. Phillips joins the company from Nielsen, where she served as chief human resources officer.

Marva Smalls, EVP, global head of inclusion strategy, Viacom, will serve as EVP, global head of inclusion of ViacomCBS, driving initiatives and fostering partnerships that promote and advance diversity and inclusion for ViacomCBS enterprise-wide both with internal and external stakeholders globally. In addition, she will retain her public affairs responsibilities for Nickelodeon as EVP, public affairs, kids and family entertainment brands, ViacomCBS Media Networks.

Jose Tolosa, chief transformation officer of Viacom, will expand his responsibilities as EVP, chief transformation officer. In this role, he will continue to oversee integration efforts for the combined company, with a focus on accelerating the evolution of its businesses. Tolosa will also lead ViacomCBS strategic planning, helping to set the company’s strategic priorities and support cross-company projects for senior management. Additionally, he will oversee the Global Business Services and Global Sourcing divisions, which will expand their scope, providing enterprise-wide services and helping drive synergies.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The leadership announcements follow the previously announced appointments of Christa D’Alimonte as EVP, general counsel and secretary; Anthony DiClemente as EVP, investor relations; DeDe Lea as EVP, global public policy and government relations; Julia Phelps as EVP, chief communications and corporate marketing officer, and Christina Spade as Executive Vice President, CFO.

“We now have in place the entire senior management team for ViacomCBS, ensuring we will hit the ground running when the transaction closes in just a few weeks,” stated Bob Bakish, Viacom president and CEO, who will serve as president and CEO of ViacomCBS upon closing. “Working together, these leaders will help us realize the full potential of our considerable assets and competitive strengths.”

The merger of Viacom and CBS remains subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by early December.