Ryan’s career as an entrepreneur, before he became overseer of ViacomCBS’s critically important global streaming strategy, journeyed through the music world (CDuctive, back in the days of custom CDs and Smule, a custom singing app) and the clothing world (Threadless and Trunk Club) before he entered TV as the co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV.
“Since I became an entrepreneur back in the mid-’90s, I’ve always been highly focused on the consumer,” he said. “And I’ve also been a contrarian — to find the best opportunities you have to look for the white space where no one else is.”
Contrarian doesn’t mean going against the grain just for the sake of it, Ryan added: “It isn’t just being different; it’s also about what will be highly sought after and what can be done better.” At each of his stops, along with his new role, he has come to understand the “power of curation. It’s the paradox of choice, too much of which can be paralyzing so you need to curate for the consumer.”
In his new role, a promotion in October, Ryan will have plenty of consumers. He is overseeing the company’s global streaming strategy across both paid and free services, including CBS All Access, which will relaunch as Paramount Plus with a vast library of TV episodes along with hundreds of movies from the Paramount library in early 2021, and Pluto TV, the leading free streaming television service. (The latter, which was acquired by Viacom for $340 million in 2019, is free and ad-supported streaming; in the third quarter it grew domestic monthly active users 57% to 28.4 million.)
“I’m super excited about our opportunities in both the free and paid arenas,” Ryan said. “We are well-positioned with a world-class brand that has near universal awareness in almost every major market globally. We will bring that to bear at the intersection of free and paid, so that consumers of our free content on Pluto TV can be funneled into paying for premium content and originals and people who churn out, because some do, can be kept in our ecosystem with Pluto TV.”
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Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.
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