Paramount Plus, the subscription VOD service backed by ViacomCBS, is accelerating its international rollout and aims to be available in 45 territories by the end of next year. It expects to export a strong position on production sector diversity alongside movies and series,
“One of the policies I am most proud of started in the U.K., and now is a global policy, is our ‘no diversity, no commission’ production policy. It applies to our entire production business in more than 180 countries. If you don’t have diversity on your crew or in your cast, then we are not going to commission (the content),” said Kelly Day, president of streaming at ViacomCBS Networks International. She was speaking Monday at a presentation operated by the Cannes Market, an adjunct to the Cannes Film Festival.
“Ben Frow director of programming in the U.K. really championed this a couple of years back, and disappointingly got a lot of pushback, a lot of grief. But we’ve held our ground and expanded it in the fall of last year to now be a global policy. And, it’s made the shows better.”
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Paramount Plus has emerged from the merger of Viacom and CBC and from the ashes of CBS All Access. It now operates in the U.S., Canada, the Nordic region and and 23 markets in Latin America. Australia is up next, where the platform will be the first to offer live sports, and where the outfit has begun commissioning local content. Sex comedy “Spreadsheet” went into production in recent days.
While Paramount Pictures movies and CBS and Starz shows are the core offering, pricing, and the content mix will vary from market to market. It holds Pay 1 movie rights in some territories, but not all.
The service is available from as little as $3 per month in some markets to A$8.99 ($6.74) in Australia. “We think that is competitive price in very competitive market,” said Day, acknowledging that consumers are also stacking up multiple VOD subscriptions. “Sports initially will be included in that price. But we will reevaluate thereafter.”
European markets are likely to be high priories for Paramount Plus expansion in 2022. But the group is also simultaneously expanding Pluto, an advertising-supported streaming service that was acquired some three years ago. Day said it is expected to launch in France and Italy later in 2021 following launches in the U.S and Latin America.
“Audiences love it. People still like that (linear), they like turning on TV, diving in and getting immersed in it. Pluto has taken a contrarian path against a heavily VOD environment of the last two year,” said Day. “People like that it is free, that it is very widely distributed (through deals with major vendors) it is intuitive and easy to use, does not require registration. We definitely see it as a compliment to Paramount Plus and there is a bit of back and for the between them – there is a Paramount Plus channel on Pluto – that serves as a barker or promotional channel.”
The international rollout of Paramount Plus will necessitate further content localization. Day said that ViacomCBS International Studios now operates all over the world and is the most direct path for local producers to pitch their projects.
Best opportunities for independent contributions exist in local series. Day said that in Australia the service would be looking for “the premium end of scripted comedy and drama,” and original content that can sit alongside Paramount Pictures movies, Showtime series, Nickelodeon and MTV brands.
Opportunities for acquisitions of completed shows exist at different levels and are greatest in scripted and unscripted drama and documentaries.
“Looking at our five-year plan we see investment in content continuing to go up. Demand for content does not seem to be anywhere close to the top. We are going to see a lot more truly local content that is travelling globally. Credit where credit is due: Netflix has pioneered this investment in and development of incredible local originals,” said Day. “We have this belief that if we serve that local audience there are going to be lots of audiences all over the world that are also interested in those stories.
“We are going to see more language diversity, story diversity, cultural diversity that travels across global services. I think it is amazing. It is going to bring better content.”