ViacomCBS wants to prove to skeptics it finally understands streaming

If you’re nonetheless not sure of what Paramount Plus is, don’t fear — you’ll study quickly, as a result of ViacomCBS goes to spend an excellent portion of 2021 making an attempt to get you to join it.

Paramount Plus is ViacomCBS’s rebrand of its present streaming service, CBS All Access. The revamped streamer will carry stay sports activities (together with NFL video games that air on CBS), stay information, and 1000’s of movies and TV exhibits from its networks. Those embody Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and each present and library programming from CBS. As the corporate prepares to finish 2020 with “at least” 19 million paid subscribers within the United States, and plans to develop in 2021, executives used their time on an earnings name at this time to try to persuade skeptical buyers and analysts they know what they’re doing — ironic contemplating CBS All Access is without doubt one of the earliest main streamers.

“Streaming is obviously a big opportunity,” ViacomCBS’s new chief monetary officer, Navreen Chopra, mentioned on the corporate’s third-quarter earnings name. “It’s one where we’ve got several years of experience and increasing momentum.”

There are two essential streaming areas of focus heading into 2021: Paramount Plus and Pluto TV. The latter is its ad-supported free streaming service that the corporate sees as straight promoting income play. The platform has greater than 28 million month-to-month energetic customers, up 57 p.c 12 months over 12 months. People enroll to use the service, and ViacomCBS sells adverts. It’s a platform that CEO Bob Bakish mentioned he “couldn’t be happier” to have acquired in late 2018.

Paramount Plus, nevertheless, is what’s going to compete with providers like Peacock, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and Netflix. Figuring out how to “lean into streaming even more,” as Bakish mentioned he wished to do, comes with deciding what doesn’t make sense to proceed. Part of that features providing stay TV, like sports activities and information. Other strikes embody shutting smaller area of interest platforms like MTV Hits. Although the CEO didn’t communicate to different area of interest gamers (like NickHits or Comedy Central Now), the thought appears to be that the content material will fold into Paramount Plus. Services like NickHits can be found on extra basic digital retailers like Amazon, the place they are often bought for a further month-to-month charge on high of Amazon Prime’s membership charge.

One huge distinction that may separates ViacomCBS is how the corporate is considering its content material. The firm will proceed to license its sequence and movies to different firms. Notably, South Park airs on HBO Max — a direct competitor — however the deal introduced in a reported $500 million. Popular exhibits like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra had been additionally licensed to Netflix. Weekly breakdowns from Nielsen of high streaming titles within the US routinely have ViacomCBS packages like Shameless, Criminal Minds, and NCIS listed, even when these packages air on totally different platforms.

That doesn’t imply Paramount Plus received’t depend on exclusives; it will. Originals and exclusives convey individuals in, and libraries retain subscribers. Bakish’s argument is their libraries have content material to permit extra licensing by way of non-exclusive offers (like Legend of Korra on Netflix) to generate further income.

“We have a film library of 4,000 titles, a TV library of 140,000 episodes — we can’t keep all that for ourselves,” Bakish mentioned. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s too much. We have strong demand from third parties because we are proven hitmakers, and that demand, we can reliably and profitably monetize it.”

With Paramount Plus set to debut in early 2021, and Pluto TV persevering with to develop into new nations, ViacomCBS is placing its eggs in streaming’s basket. Whether or not ViacomCBS manages to quell analysts’ and buyers’ considerations about having the ability to compete with among the greatest gamers on the desk will take time to play out, however it’s clear that Bakish and his crew are all in.

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