February 27, 2019
On the heels of its $340 million acquisition of Pluto TV, Viacom plans to expand the ad-supported streaming video service globally, featuring the media company’s proprietary content-producing brands, including MTV, Paramount, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon, among others, CEO Bob Bakish told an investor group.
The free streaming service with more than 100 channels launched operations in Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom at the end of 2018.
Speaking Feb. 26 at the Morgan Stanley technology, media & telecom confab in San Francisco, Bakish said Viacom’s decision in 2016 to pull back bulk content distribution through third-party digital channels was a double-edged sword.
“We kind of took it on chin for two years with respect to distribution revenue when we weren’t doing those kinds of deals,” Bakish said, adding that the content backlog presents distribution options for Pluto TV going forward.
The executive said Viacom generates upwards of 13 million monthly users to digital products that include Nickelodeon’s Noggin streaming service, in addition to platforms surrounding Comedy Central and BET.
Viacom also plans to market over-the-top distribution to its linear pay-TV business partners.
“This is a global opportunity,” Bakish said. “It’s going to accelerate our strategy on multiple dimensions. We see a very material opportunity there.”
At the same time, the executive said digital distribution has been hampered by the traditional pay-TV ecosystem, existing distribution agreements and related monetization opportunities.
“We don’t have a demand problem, we have a supply problem,” Bakish said.
The executive contends Pluto TV offers Viacom’s brands and advertisers a very “attractive” demographic that he claims are “essentially” not tethered to traditional pay-TV.
In addition, Bakish contends Pluto’s ad-inventory is 50% unsold due in part to a “nascent” ad force he said didn’t have access to Viacom’s portfolio of national brands and global marketers.
“They didn’t have those kinds of relationships,” he said. “[Now, they’ve] got access to money they never saw before. [Pluto TV] looks like television to advertisers.”