Pluto TV Profitable 'at Margins Approaching Broadcast' in the U.S., ViacomCBS's Bakish Says

ViacomCBS's Bob Bakish speaks during the Mobile World Congress Americas event in Los Angeles, California on Oct. 22, 2019.
(Image credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

AVOD platform Pluto TV is profitable in the U.S. "at margins approaching broadcast," ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said at a Tuesday morning appearance at the UBS Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.

ViacomCBS said during its third quarter earnings call back on Nov. 4 that Pluto TV is on the way to generating more than $1 billion in revenue in 2021, less than three years after the media conglomerate purchased the startup for $340 million. 

The free-to-consumer Pluto TV service is currently in expansion mode internationally, having recently deployed in Italy.

Since ViacomCBS reports broadcast and streaming revenue in one big lump it calls "TV Entertainment," it's hard to discern just what Bakish might mean when he equivocates Pluto's U.S. margins to those of "broadcast." 

Revenue for the conglomerate's TV Entertainment sector spiked 24% in the third quarter, driven largely by the addition of Paramount Plus. 

Bakish conveyed bullishness regarding ViacomCBS' entire direct-to-consumer portfolio, noting that the conglomerate is pacing to collect $5 billion in revenue from DTC platforms in 2021. 

But Paramount Plus, he said, “will take a couple of years, as it has for everyone, to get to profitability."

Not progressing as smoothly is ViacomCBS's proposed $2.175 billion sale of publisher Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House owner Bertelsmann. The Justice Department has sued to stop the deal, which it feels is uncompetitive. 

“We look forward to resolving this as soon as possible," Bakish said. ■ 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!