Paramount Plus is playing well with pint-size viewers as “Paw Patrol: The Movie” and other kids and family content was the biggest driver of growth and engagement in third quarter for ViacomCBS’ streaming platform.
Bob Bakish, ViacomCBS president-CEO, talked up the higher levels of activity on Paramount Plus as well as the long-term vision for Paramount Pictures and ViacomCBS’ increasing investment in Spanish-language TV production on Thursday morning during the company’s quarterly earnings call. He also briefly addressed the anti-trust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department on Tuesday to block ViacomCBS’ $2.1 billion sale of publisher Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House.
“We think the DOJ’s claims are without merit,” Bakish said.
More than half of Paramount Plus’ subscriber base watched some streaming content from Nickelodeon on the platform during the quarter, a strong sign of uptake since ViacomCBS rebranded and expanded the former CBS All Access service in March. Bakish cited “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Paw Patrol” and “iCarly” as among the top series with children and young adults. “A Quiet Place II,” which landed on Paramount Plus after a 45-day theatrical window, was also a standout for the streamer.
ViacomCBS overall added 4.3 million streaming subscribers in the quarter, most of which came from domestic signups for Paramount Plus.
Bakish pointed to this week’s announcement of a “Paw Patrol” movie sequel and another series in development at Nickelodeon as a sign of “ViacomCBS franchise management ratcheting up to the next level.” The distribution pact that ViacomCBS unveiled Thursday morning for Paramount Plus with wireless provider T Mobile will also go a long way to driving subscription growth and basic awareness.
“The most important thing for Paramount plus now is exposing consumers to the offering, especially as we ramp up content,” Bakish said.
Paramount Plus is in the midst of rolling out its largest original content slate ever in the current quarter. ViacomCBS chief financial officer Naveen Chopra told analysts that content spending for streaming would increase $350 million for Q4 beyond the unstated level of spending in Q3. Most of those incremental dollars are going to Paramount Plus.
The laser focus on growing revenue and subscribers for streaming led to ViacomCBS reorganizing its financial reporting units into three segments: TV Media, encompassing CBS, Showtime and linear cable networks; Direct to Consumer, housing Paramount Plus, Showtime’s streaming app and Pluto TV; and Filmed Entertainment, encompassing Paramount Plus. Chopra told analysts the separation should help Wall Street see that even ViacomCBS’ traditional linear operations are still significantly profitable.
Bakish addressed the recent changing of the guard at Paramount Pictures, with Nickelodeon president Brian Robbins adding the studio to his purview while Jim Gianopulos exited as studio chairman after five years.
“Jim got us to a better place financially and really stabilized the studio,” Bakish said. “As we look to the next chapter, we need to lean more into franchises and a multi-faceted model including streaming. Brian is ideally suited to that.”
Bakish noted that ViacomCBS at present has three types of movie distribution strategies for Paramount titles: theatrical exclusive for a 45-day window; day and date theatrical and Paramount Plus releases; and streaming exclusives. Paramount’s “Clifford the Big Red Dog” is the next title to have a day-and-date bow on Nov. 10. “We think kids and family in this continued COVID time has real opportunity for us,” Bakish said. ” ‘Paw Patrol’ worked well and we’re excited about ‘Clifford.’ “
(Pictured: “Paw Patrol: The Movie”)