The rebranding of ViacomCBS to Paramount earlier this month is intended to reflect an increasingly global focus for the US media company, which lies at the heart of its rapidly expanding streaming video strategy.[i]
The company was formed via the US$12bn merger of CBS and Viacom in 2019 amidst investor fears that Viacom had too much exposure to traditional TV advertising and cable channels and CBS’ early forays into streaming had lagged its rivals. The new entity – ViacomCBS – addressed that criticism in March 2021 with the launch of Paramount+, promising to premiere over 50 original TV series over the next two years. High-profile sports coverage includes the NFL, Masters and PGA Tour golf, UEFA Champions, and Europe League soccer matches.
Before the rebrand, ViacomCBS’ subscription video on demand (SVOD) services – Paramount+ and Showtime OTT – were reported to have accumulated 56.1m subscribers between them by the end of December 2021. The two platforms added 9.4m new subscribers during the fourth quarter alone, 80% of which (7.3m) signed up for Paramount+, specifically bringing its total to 32.8m. That puts it ahead of other US SVOD outfits like Discovery, HBO Max, and Peacock when measured by paying customers worldwide.[ii]
Paramount saw a similar surge in streaming revenue, up 79% year on year during 2021 to just over US$2bn. Turnover from advertising expanded 51% to US$2.1bn in the same period, and over US$1bn came from its free AVOD platform Pluto TV which now has 64m subscribers, reported the company’s President and CEO Bob Bakish.
Investing in global content
Bakish also outlined Paramount’s plans for 2022, which involve heavy investment in “global content, distribution and market expansion” as a means to drive up its scale. A critical component is SkyShowtime, a new streaming joint venture (JV) with ViacomCBS and Comcast. It is set to be made available to an estimated 90m homes across twenty European countries in 2022, including Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden.
This year, Paramount+ will launch in partnership with Sky in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The service is delivered to Sky Cinema subscribers as a free add-on to their existing accounts. It will work across supported connected TV devices and OTT platforms and via Apple iOS and Android apps for smartphones. More recently, Paramount also inked a deal with Canal+ Group[iii] , which will see Paramount+ offered to the media company’s Ciné Séries SVOD subscribers in France.
Another partnership will see Paramount+ come to South Korea in 2022 via an exclusive bundle with CJ ENM streaming service TVING, marking the platform’s first entry into the Asian market.[iv] Paramount will license Korean-language TV series from the former’s existing catalog and collaborate on the joint development and financing of English language films and shows.
Paramount already has a strong presence in other regions outside of its native US, notably Latin America, where it also debuted in March 2021. It subsequently teamed up with Latin America cable and mobile service provider Millicom (Tigo) to offer its premium content to subscribers in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Bolivia last summer, with prices ranging from US$4.10 in Costa Rica to US$4.57 in Bolivia and Honduras. ViacomCBS International Networks (VCNI, as it was then called) later agreed to purchase Latin American TV broadcaster Chilevisión from WarnerMedia in April 2021 and offices in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.
Local content has provided a firm foundation for Paramount+’s initial success. The Spanish language shows from MTV and Comedy Central, including Acapulco Shore: Sus Historias, Families of the Mafia, Se Renta Cuartos Season Three, and La Culpa es de Malinche, is available in Spanish-speaking countries, alongside Portuguese language titles such as DEFEX Brazil, A Treta Não Tira Férias, Jersey Shore, and A Culpa e do Cabral Season Nine in Brazil.
Pricing is yet to be announced for either Paramount+ or SkyShowtime in Europe. Still, it would be no surprise if Paramount deliberately undercut SVOD rivals like Netflix and Disney+, which already have a solid customer base on the continent. In the US, Paramount offers a Premium Plan from US$10 a month and an ad-supported version costing US$5 a month, but that could change once Paramount+ begins to integrate additional Showtime content via an an-app upgrade starting in the summer of 2022.
As in Latin America, the volume and availability of content Paramount makes available in languages other than English could prove a more significant factor in enticing paying subscribers away from rival SVOD platforms in Europe and Asia. Bundling deals with regional telcos and providing convenient payment options which allow consumers to sign up for content that can be accessed and viewed on multiple devices will also help its global expansion cause.
[i] ViacomCBS rebrands to Paramount in focus on streaming, The Verge, 15th February 2022
[ii] Paramount Plus, Showtime Top 56 Million Subscribers Combined at End of 2021, Variety.com, 15th February 2022
[iii] Paramount+ Confirms Launch In France As Part Of Wide-Ranging Deal With Canal+, Deadline, 15th February 2022
[iv] ViacomCBS deal gives Paramount+ entry in Asia, Light Reading, 12th July 2021