ViacomCBS wants to prove to skeptics that it finally understands streaming

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If you’re still not sure what Paramount Plus is, don’t worry – you’ll find out soon, as ViacomCBS will be spending a good chunk of 2021 trying to sign up for it.

Paramount Plus is ViacomCBS’s new image of its current streaming service, CBS All Access. The revamped streamer will broadcast live sports (including NFL games broadcast on CBS), live news, and thousands of movies and TV shows from its networks. These include Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and current and library programming from CBS. As the company braces for the end of 2020 with “at least” 19 million paying subscribers in the United States, and plans to grow in 2021, executives used their time on a call for results today. hui to try to convince skeptical investors and analysts that they know what they know. re do – ironic considering that CBS All Access was one of the first major streamers.

“Streaming is obviously a great opportunity,” ViacomCBS new CFO Navreen Chopra said during the company’s third quarter earnings call. “This is an area in which we have several years of experience and a growing dynamic.”

There are two main areas of streaming for 2021: Paramount Plus and Pluto TV. The latter is its ad-supported free streaming service that the company sees as just an ad revenue game. The platform has over 28 million monthly active users, up 57% year-over-year. People register to use the service and ViacomCBS sells advertisements. It’s a platform CEO Bob Bakish said he “couldn’t be happier” to have acquired at the end of 2018.

Paramount Plus, however, is what will rival services like Peacock, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and Netflix. Understanding how to “lean even more into streaming,” as Bakish said he wanted to do, comes down to deciding what doesn’t make sense to continue. Part of this includes the live TV offering, like sports and news. Other measures include shutting down smaller niche platforms like MTV Hits. While the CEO hasn’t spoken to other niche players (like NickHits or Comedy Central Now), the idea seems to be that the content will fall back into Paramount Plus. Services like NickHits are available from more general digital retailers like Amazon, where they can be purchased for an additional monthly fee in addition to the Amazon Prime membership fee.

One big difference that will separate ViacomCBS is the way the company views its content. The company will continue to license its series and films to other companies. Especially, South Park airs on HBO Max – a direct competitor – but the deal grossed $ 500 million. Popular shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The legend of Korra were also licensed to Netflix. Nielsen’s weekly breakdowns of the best streaming titles in the United States regularly have ViacomCBS programs like Shameless criminal minds, and NCIS listed, even though these programs are broadcast on different platforms.

This does not mean that Paramount Plus will not rely on exclusives; it will be. Originals and exclusives attract people, and libraries retain their subscribers. Bakish’s argument is that their libraries have content to allow more licenses through non-exclusive agreements (like Legend of Korra on Netflix) to generate additional income.

“We have a movie library of 4,000 titles, a TV library of 140,000 episodes – we can’t keep it all to ourselves,” Bakish said. “That does not make sense. It’s too much. We have high demand from third parties as we are established hitmakers, and this demand allows us to monetize it reliably and profitably. “

With Paramount Plus set to debut in early 2021 and Pluto TV continuing to expand into new countries, ViacomCBS is putting its eggs in the streaming basket. Whether or not ViacomCBS succeeds in allaying analyst and investor worries about the possibility of competing with some of the biggest players at the table will take some time to play, but it’s clear Bakish and his team are all in agreement.

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