ViacomCBS Sets Investor Event for Streaming Plans

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

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said the company will be holding an investor event early next year to explain its streaming strategy before it relaunches CBS All Access as Paramount Plus.

Speaking at the UBS media investor conference Tuesday, Bakish said ViacomCBS’s big streaming services were growing, but that the company would be shutting down two smaller ones, MTV Hits and Comedy Central Now.

Bakish forecast that in the fourth quarter Pluto TV, the company’s free, ad supported streaming service, will reach at least 30 million monthly average users domestically and 40 million MAUs globally.

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ViacomCBS’s pay services--CBS All Access and Showtime OTT--will have at least 19 million subscribers.

“We now see domestic streaming and digital video revenue, which does include some ad sales money, at an annual run rate in Q4 of $3 billion," Bakish said. “That’s up front the $2.8 billion and change we talked about on our Q3 call and that implies over 50% growth in the quarter.

At the investor event, the company plans to discuss its streaming strategy and aspirations in more detail, he said.

“There we’ll share more about our plans for Paramount Plus, including an update on the content slate, our distribution and marketing strategy and our film utilization plans,” he said.

“We’ll also give you an update [on] our entire streaming ecosystem, and that includes Pluto TV as well as Showtime OTT, and we’ll share with you how we’re using the assets of this great company to pursue a global streaming strategy,” he said.

In addition to content, Bakish said ViacomCBS’s strategy involves ubiquitous distribution through traditional operators, mobile operators and over-the top players. ”We think that combination is really powerful,” he said.

The company on Monday announced that Comcast Cable’s Xfinity X1 will be carrying CBS All Access, and later Paramount Plus.

He added that Pluto TV will serve as a powerful gateway to and funnel for the company’s subscription services.

With ViacomCBS cable channel brands being incorporated into CBS All Access and Paramount Plus, smaller direct-to-consumer services like MTV Hits and Comedy Central Now “really don’t make sense on a standalone basis, and so we’re sunsetting those two services in the fourth quarter as we prepare to fully embed that content inside of Paramount Plus,” Bakish said.

However, the company’s Noggin and BET Plus DTC services will continue. 

“Both are very well defined services that have good subscriber momentum,” he said. “There’s some opportunities to bundle those products and create other kinds of consumer packages. But no, we’re not planning on sunsetting either BET Plus or Noggin."

In terms of films, Bakish said the company has 12 films on its slate for 2021 and is pursuing a variety of strategies. Some, like Maverick, the Top Gun sequel, have been delayed by the pandemic. Others like SpongeBob SquarePants Sponge on the Run, will stream, first with a Premium VOD window, then on Paramount Plus.

“Coming out of the pandemic, you will have a more multifaceted film business and you’ll have shorter theatrical windows, which is different than saying I think the theatrical business is going away,” he said.

“The film category will continue to be strategic and valuable, but certainly is evolving, and that’s giving us more flexibility, more optionality as we go unlock value for Paramount and for ViacomCBS writ large."

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.