The stickiness of Nickelodeon content is a sign that the strategy of expanding the CBS All Access streamer with the Paramount Plus relaunch on March 4 was the right approach, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told Wall Street analysts Thursday during the company’s first quarter earnings call.
“The real news is it’s now broader,” Bakish said of the subscriber base for Paramount Plus in the 10 weeks since the relaunch. “Nickelodeon is turning into a powerful driver of subscribers and engagement,” he said noting that Nickelodeon shows such as “Paw Patrol” account for “a strong double digital share of total streams.”
ViacomCBS primed the pump to attract pint-size viewers and their families by making the “SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” available starting with the March 4 launch. That decision was made in part because theatrical distribution was essentially shut down during the worst of the COVID-19 lockdown. The new “SpongeBob” spinoff series “Kamp Koral” also debuted in tandem with the launch.
“That’s a recipe that clearly works,” Bakish said. “Here is an example of us replicating our strength in a legacy linear position here in kids in streaming.”
The majority of the 70-minute call was devoted to ViacomCBS’ streaming investment and the pace of growth at Paramount Plus. Bakish and CFO Naveen Chopra made it crystal-clear that the company is focusing its energy and resources to producing more original content to be showcased on the domestic and international iterations of Paramount Plus.
The service will be in 45 worldwide markets by the end of 2022. As of Thursday, ViacomCBS counts 36 million global streaming subscribers, most of which are in the U.S., across its Paramount Plus, Showtime and BET Plus services.
“I look at the international streaming opportunity. It’s clearly global and we’re going after it,” Bakish said. He emphasized ViacomCBS’ benefit of having a local presence in key territories like Latin America. ViacomCBS owns Argentina’s broadcast giant Telefe and last month it inked a deal to buy Chile’s Chilevisiòn. Both of those entities will be vital in supplying Paramount Plus with content for Spanish-speaking audiences.
“We’ve got a lot of content to work with outside the U.S. for Paramount Plus and a lot more is coming,” Bakish said. “The other differentiating piece here is on the ground operations. That brings us significant advantages in unlocking the opportunities in these markets.”
Chopra noted that as existing international output deals expire, “we will further reduce the content we license to third-party streamers, holding more for in-house,” he said.
Chopra made multiple references to the $2.7 billion that ViacomCBS raised in March as its stock went on a run — that turned out to be tied up in the flame-out Archegos Capital Management — designed to give them flexibility to invest in more content. That includes plans to have more Paramount Pictures titles launch earlier on Paramount Plus and to build up to one original movie per week for the service by next year. Next month, another 1,000 Paramount library titles are coming to the streamer to bulk up the movie menu on the streamer (“These are real movies, not deep library,” Bakish enthused.)
Paramount Plus will add a $4.99 ad-supported option next month to its existing $9.99 offering. Bakish noted that there’s potential for average revenue per user for ViacomCBS to be greater on the lower-cost version of Paramount Plus because streaming ad inventory is so in demand.
ViacomCBS’ free ad-supported streamer Pluto TV also continues to be a workhorse and important supplier of ad inventory. “Pluto TV revenue has now doubled for the third sequential quarter,” Bakish said. ViacomCBS’ streaming advertising revenue in total spiked 62% year-over-year to $428 million, powered by growth at Pluto TV.
Pluto TV now has 150,000 hours of content from 250 suppliers. The service saw a gain of 6 million monthly active users in during the quarter, bringing its base to nearly 50 million.
“The top of the funnel continues to be robust,” Bakish said.