ViacomCBS has raised the curtains on its long-anticipated global streamer, with plans set for an early 2021 launch.
Having teased the prospect of a “broad pay streaming product” back in May, ViacomCBS Networks International has unveiled plans for a premium SVOD service for all audiences, underpinned by major output deals with Showtime and CBS All Access and a “super-sized” selection of content from ViacomCBS brands including CBS, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and some first-run Paramount films.
The streamer, which will receive bespoke branding in the coming months, will be rolled out early next year in Australia, Latin America and the Nordics, with more international markets to follow. In some countries, the platform won’t be starting from scratch: CBS All Access is already present in Australia and will simply relaunch as the new streamer. The same applies for the Paramount Plus service in the Nordics, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
The new platform, which was discussed by ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish on the company’s earnings call on Thursday, will offer exclusive premieres of all Showtime titles, including new series “Halo” and “American Rust,” as well as CBS All Access originals like “Guilty Party” and “The Harper House.” To date, many of these originals have been sold to third-party global platforms and broadcasters in hugely lucrative output deals, and questions will now be raised about the future of these pacts.
ViacomCBS has confirmed to Variety, however, that it will “continue to license product selectively to third parties in international markets.” For example, in the first batch of launch markets, the new service will be home to all Showtime premieres, but that doesn’t include series already licensed to third parties.
“We’re going to continue working with our colleagues in our distribution team to work out the right approach to allocate rights and windowing in those markets,” David Lynn, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, tells Variety. “We have more than enough content to continue to do licensing.”
The question, however, is whether major titles like CBS All Access original “Star Trek: Picard” — for which Amazon Prime Video swooped for global rights and spent major coin pushing in markets such as the U.K. — will continue to live on that platform globally beyond their original deal terms, or carry over to the new ViacomCBS streamer.
Other programs set to launch in all three markets, to varying degrees of exclusivity, include “The Good Wife,” “The Affair,” “Californication,” “Deadwood,” “Dexter,” “House of Lies,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Oz” and the original “Twin Peaks.”
The platform, powered by the same tech used for CBS All Access, will also combine movies from Paramount Pictures and premieres and box sets from Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Paramount Network, as well as originals from in-house production outfit ViacomCBS International Studios in some markets.
“The content offering will vary per market,” says Lynn, highlighting that “we’re definitely going to produce local originals for the service in some, if not all, the phase one markets.”
But the “overall architecture of the service,” as Lynn sees it, is predicated on exclusive first runs of Showtime and CBS All Access originals, followed by a selection of first-run Paramount Pictures films and classic movies in some markets, and then the ViacomCBS boxsets, alongside bespoke local content in individual markets “that can be either local originals, or third-party acquisitions,” adds the executive.
Ultimately, the platform will look to serve four-quadrant viewing by combining blockbuster and classic movies, premium scripted series, kids, comedy and entertainment, reality and specialist factual content. Notably, niche pre-school streamer Noggin, available in 65 countries, will remain as a distinct platform.
While there was speculation at one point that AVOD service Pluto TV may be used to expand international via an SVOD tier and premium content offering, Lynn assures the Tom Ryan-led service will continue as a standalone player, soon to launch in Brazil, France, Italy and Spain. “We want to be big in AVOD, and we want to be big in SVOD. Those two services I see as completely complementary to each other,” says Lynn, underlining more cross-promotion in the future between the two services.
Launch markets have been selected strategically. In Australia, the existing 10 All Access service will be rebranded and significantly expanded. Meanwhile, the Latin America launch spans Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, and the Nordic countries include Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.
The roll-out will be executed using ViacomCBS’s existing international infrastructure, which spans offices in more than 30 countries, to improve cost efficiency and allow investment to be focused on screen.
Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of streaming for VCNI, added: “With more than 200 million new streaming subscriptions due to come online internationally by 2025, we’re very confident we can build a meaningful subscriber base in the next few years. ViacomCBS is one of a very small handful of elite content companies with broad enough content pipelines and deep enough content libraries to lead in all segments of the video entertainment market.”