A newly formed streaming giant is entering the ring as Viacom and CBS — now known as ViacomCBS — prepare to merge their content portfolios that include both paid subscription and free ad-supported platforms. The result, says CEO Bob Bakish, will be a “powerful DTC ecosystem, which will allow us to serve consumers at different price points.”
On an investor call to discuss the merger after the market close on Tuesday, Bakish and CBS head Joe Ianniello indicated that they will rely on a merged library that now encompasses 140,000 episodes of television and over 3,600 movie titles to drive the combined company’s revenues higher and capture more viewers.
“Just think about adding content from Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central to CBS All Access, and Paramount movies to Showtime,” said Ianniello, who will become CBS’ chairman-CEO after the transaction, of the two SVODs. “And also imagine our [ad-supported video on demand] properties like CBS Sports HQ and ET Live being added to Pluto [TV]. Plus, all of this will increasingly be done on a global basis.”
CBS All Access and Showtime together have eight million paying subscribers, a figure execs hope to push to 25 million by 2022. As Disney, WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal prepare to launch their streaming platforms, backed by vast libraries of their own, bulking up the relatively insular All Access — which presently only carries CBS content like “NCIS” and “Star Trek: Discovery” — appears to be something of a necessity. Bakish also emphasized the potential of the “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises under the ViacomCBS umbrella going forward.
Viacom’s recently acquired AVOD Pluto TV, which has 16 million users and around 150 content suppliers, offers viewing free of charge. Adding CBS’ ad-supported sports, news and entertainment services will likewise bolster its appeal.
Expect such crossovers to happen sooner rather than later.
“There is nothing at all preventing us from moving forward in terms of unlocking that opportunity in the very near future,” said Bakish, adding that there is “low hanging fruit there that we will seek to pick quite soon.”
Bakish and Ianniello’s direct-to-consumer plans are just one branch of a three-pronged attack designed to achieve “billions of dollars of upside.”
When asked by an analyst whether they are re-considering the price of CBS All Access, which currently ranges from $6 to $10 a month, Ianniello sidestepped the question, saying that they will take a “slow and steady” approach as they grow subscriptions.
Aside from an aggressive streaming strategy, the pair also pointed to affiliate fees and advertising as two additional drivers of “significant” revenue upside.
On the affiliate front, “CBS and Viacom together will have a 22% share of TV viewership, yet right now, we only receive 11% of the industry’s affiliate fees that are paid to content providers,” said Ianniello. “This means the combined company will have tremendous upside in affiliate revenue.”
Equipped with an array of TV and film studios that span CBS Television Studios, Paramount TV, Nickelodeon’s animation arm, Viacom International Studios and Paramount Pictures, Bakish said that the combined entity will be able to feed rising demand for third party content, checking off MPVDs, broadcasters, cablers and streamers from Comcast to Fox to Netflix to Facebook.
And Bakish has indicated that the company may continue to be in acquisitive mode, with speculation abounding that the company may eye smaller media brands such as Discovery, Lionsgate or AMC.
“The combined company will be one of only a few with the breadth and depth of content and platforms, and the global reach, to shape the future of the industry,” said Bakish.
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