×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Viacom’s Bob Bakish: Entertainment-Only Pay TV Option Coming This Year

Viacom is in advanced discussions with at least one MVPD to be part of a low-cost, entertainment-only channel package designed to help bring younger consumers into the pay TV eco-system and to keep others from leaving.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish spoke of the initiative Monday during his keynote breakfast at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston. Bakish referenced the slew of OTT skinny bundle offerings that are hitting the market at around $40. He told J.P. Morgan media analyst Alexia Quadrani that what he called the “entertainment pack” option would probably be priced around $10-$20.

The new breed of digital MVPDs are still not “transformational” opportunities for pay TV because they remain dominated by broadcast signals and sports. He doubted whether new offerings from YouTube, DirecTV Now and Hulu would have much appeal to what he called “cord-never millennials.”

“The transformational opportunity is to bring in a new entry segment at a much lower price point,” Bakish said. The industry needs “a path to bring in someone who wants high-quality entertainment” but doesn’t want to pay for sports channels. With a truly low-cost entertainment option, MVPDs can also offer more flexibility to consumers to “trade up from and trade down as the household needs change.”

Bakish emphasized during the Q&A that Viacom was focused on repairing “frayed” relations with its MVPD partner. Since Bakish took the helm in December, he’s met with leaders of the largest MVPDs and emerging digital MVPDs.

In some cases, Viacom has reached deals to expand on-demand access on traditional MVPDs to Viacom shows — agreements reached outside the context of broader carriage negotiations. “We had gotten to the place where our largest and most important (MVPD) customers had inferior rights grants than smaller SVOD players,” he said.  In another case, Bakish said one large MVPD — he didn’t name names — has extended Viacom’s carriage deal “well into the next decade.”

Bakish quested whether the $40 price-point skinny bundles with sports and broadcast signals are viable products for distributors. He said one distributor of a $40 package acknowledge that the package has an underlying product cost of $46. “It’s unclear how long that can sustain,” he said.

Bakish acknowledged that there has been some “noise” in the marketplace between Viacom and Charter over what Bakish described as Charter putting Viacom channels on a higher service tier for new subscribers. “We firmly don’t believe they have the rights to do that,” he said. “We’ve been in discussions with them. We’ve got to get that resolved.”

On the big picture turnaround strategy at Viacom, Bakish talked up the growth of Nickelodeon and the strategy shift under way at MTV.

After hitting a slump a few years ago, Nickelodeon chief Cyma Zarghami went on a mission to expand its programming development pipeline, which is now bearing fruit. “We’re not the ‘SpongeBob’ network anymore,” he said, noting that it’s top four shows in live-action and animation are newer properties.

Nickelodeon is also key to the plan to revitalize Paramount. Bakish pointed to the animated feature “Amusement Park” set for release by Paramount next year, to be followed in 2019 by a series on Nickelodeon. Paramount and Nickelodeon had collaborated on branded movies in the past but this time around there is a much more defined strategy. “It’s a long-term plan with many properties in the pipeline,” he said.

At MTV, the shift in focus to lighter unscripted programming began rolling out in March under the direction of Chris McCarthy, who took on MTV in addition to VH1 and Logo in November. Bakish expects the next two months to be crucial with new series rollouts.

The goal is to boost numbers with teenagers and young women. MTV saw its ratings in those demos decline about 10% a year for the past five years after it embarked on an ambitious scripted programming push even though “there was no research that anyone was looking for scripted at MTV.”

Among other topics raised during the session:

Upfront: Bakish predicted a solid upfront given the tightness in TV supply and the concerns about the quality of digital advertising options. “It’s not that people are going to flee in mass from (digital) but in the context of going in to the upfront it highlights the quality and credibility of the product we sell,” he said.

Paramount Pictures: The new management team led by former Fox chief Jim Gianopulos is off and running with the goal of working much more closely with Viacom’s cable brands. “It’ll take a little time to build a new slate and bring it to market,” he said. “We’re feeling very good about the direction for Paramount.”

Cord Cutting: Bakish said some of the higher-than-expected pay TV losses recorded in the first quarter can be chalked up to churn resulting from post-M&A integration effort. He didn’t cite specifics but was likely referring to Charter and Time Warner Cable and Altice and Cablevision, and the possibility of weeding up subscribers that had been lured on the basis of heavy promotional offerings to plump up subscriber numbers ahead of a sale. “Some of the churn was around subscribers that were of less value (having) been acquired as one of the selling companies was positioning itself for a sale,” he said.

 

More Biz

  • Alan Horn Bill Tanner

    Alan Horn to Keynote Variety Business Managers Elite Breakfast, Bill Tanner to Be Honored

    Bill Tanner will be recognized with Variety’s 2019 Business Managers Elite Award at the annual Business Managers Elite Breakfast presented by City National Bank, which takes place in Beverly Hills on Nov. 13. Co-chairman and chief creative officer of The Walt Disney Studios Alan Horn will be the keynote speaker in conversation with Variety editor-in-chief, [...]

  • Smoke haze covers the Sydney Harbour

    Australia's Seven West to Merge With Affiliate Prime Media

    Australia’s Seven West Media has agreed a deal to acquire regional broadcast group Prime Media. The move is a further step in the consolidation of Australia’s traditional media industry. The two companies announced on Friday that Seven will make the acquisition entirely through the issue of new shares to the owners of Prime. Both companies [...]

  • Ron Meyer

    Ron Meyer Files $10 Million Suit Over Forged Rothko

    NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer has filed a $10 million suit against two art dealers, claiming they sold him a forged Mark Rothko painting in 2001. Meyer accuses Susan Seidel and Jaime Frankfort of duping him into buying the work. According to the suit, he was told that it would be included in an official [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein Seeks to Call Expert on 'Recovered' Memories at Rape Trial

    Harvey Weinstein’s attorneys are seeking to call an expert on “recovered memories” at his trial on rape and sexual assault charges. The defense has filed a motion asking to call Deborah Davis, a psychologist and professor at the University of Nevada at Reno. Davis is a frequent defense witness. She co-authored an article in 2006 [...]

  • Tekashi 6ix9ine Docuseries Coming From Showtime

    Tekashi 6ix9ine Docuseries Coming From Showtime and Rolling Stone

    Showtime Documentary Films today announced a new limited docuseries profiling controversial rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine. Titled “SuperVillain” and inspired by the Rolling Stone feature written by Stephen Witt, the three-part series will trace how a New York City deli clerk named Daniel Hernandez became superstar rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine — who racked up 2.6 billion streams and [...]

  • Fader Label Logo

    Fader Label Signs Two New Acts, Boosts Staff

    The Fader Label, home to Clairo, Matt and Kim and others, announced two new signings today along with three new hires on its staff. Charlie Burg and Zachary Knowles have joined the label’s talent roster, while Carson Oberg has come aboard as general manager, Yasmine Panah as project manager and Josh Hymowitz as label coordinator. They [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content