ViacomCBS is expected to unveil a broader streaming strategy on its Feb. 20 earnings call, which will mark the company’s first financial report since the reunion of Viacom and CBS Corp. was completed in December.
The company is looking to build on the foundation of CBS All Access to develop a broader streaming offering that would be a mix of subscription and advertising-supported content. Now that the companies are joined, there’s a big push to leverage all of its assets to transform the company for the on-demand era. ViacomCBS also aims to give a bigger streaming platform to its assets in news and sports programming in an effort to differentiate its offering from the plethora of entertainment-focused streaming players.
ViacomCBS declined to comment.
The plan that is shaping up calls for the platform to add programs from MTV, Comedy Central, BET and other prominent cablers under the ViacomCBS umbrella to make the CBS All Access platform more attractive to a broader range of subscribers. ViacomCBS is also evaluating options for melding CBS All Access with its newly acquired Pluto TV service, which serves up a wide range of ad-supported on-demand content from the ViacomCBS vault and other content owners.
CBS All Access is offered at present for $5.99 with commercials included or $9.99 for the ad-free option. It’s unclear whether ViacomCBS will rename All Access or boost the pricing on the platform. CBS All Access in late November added on-demand access to a number of kid-friendly programs from Viacom’s Nickelodeon in an effort to better round out its programming menu. Sources said CBS All Access is a natural platform for next-day access to shows such as Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah” or any of MTV’s buzzy reality series.
But even as it looks to grow bigger in streaming, ViacomCBS will not make the full linear feeds of its cable channels available in the same way that CBS All Access offers 24/7 live linear streams from CBS affiliate stations around the country — another dimension that separates CBS All Access from its competition. The company in some cases is restricted from offer its suite of cable channels on a purely over the top platform by its carriage deals with major MVPDs such as Comcast, Charter and DirecTV. The burgeoning ViacomCBS plan resembles NBCUniversal’s strategy to seed an audience for the largely ad-supported Peacock streaming venture set to launch on April 15.
The film vault of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures will also be a rich source of content for an expanded streaming offering, although the first pay-TV window for the studio’s new theatrical output is contractually bound to MGM’s Epix for the near term.
Moreover, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish has been on a fence-mending tour of major distributors over the past few years since he took the reins of Viacom. At a time when the company’s stock price has taken a double-digit drop, ViacomCBS can’t afford to put a strain on its newly improved relationships with the distributors that provide the lion’s share of the company’s earnings.
CNBC first reported on the movement in ViacomCBS’ streaming strategy.
(Pictured: “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah”)