ViacomCBS Streaming Chief Tom Ryan Sees ‘Squid Game’-Sized Hit Potential

Tom Ryan ViacomCBS
Courtesy of ViacomCBS

Netflix may have redefined what an original hit series could be with its recent worldwide smash “Squid Game,” but ViacomCBS can dare to dream of producing programming that reaches similar heights.

Tom Ryan, president and CEO of streaming at ViacomCBS, touted his company’s growing overseas capabilities on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” in an interview conducted Monday at the Future of Television conference.

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“We think that we are incredibly well positioned, both from a distribution perspective as we continue to scale up these streaming services across free and pay around the world, but also from a content-creation perspective,” he said. “Not just on us, but on a local basis where we can export to all the different countries where our streaming services are present in order to really have the type of global scale and success that you need to be a global streamer today.”

Ryan was particularly bullish on ViacomCBS’s capabilities in Latin America, where the company has been busy on the M&A front this year. WarnerMedia sold ViacomCBS its ChileVision property in April, and scooped up production outfits Fox TeleColombia and Estudios TeleMexico last month.

“That just reinforced us as one of the biggest creators of Spanish-language content, which, as you know, travels really well around the world and has been responsible for some of the biggest hits in in streaming,” said Ryan.

In addition to Korean format “Squid Game,” which Netflix just ordered a second season, the Los Gatos, Calif.-based streaming service has scored with Spanish-language hits that have played well across many regions, including Spain’s “La Casa de Papel.” Paramount Plus is currently in 25 countries around the globe, while Pluto TV is in 26.

Ryan, who came aboard at ViacomCBS in 2019 after selling the conglomerate the free ad-supported TV streaming service Pluto TV he founded, expanded his oversight to Paramount Plus as well last year. His division just came off a strong third quarter, which generated more than $1 billion in revenue for the first time. The fourth quarter looks promising for Paramount Plus as well, with spinoffs of the “Yellowstone” and “South Park” franchises set to bow before the end of the year.

Paramount Plus has also been strengthened by getting movies from its sister studio, which has experimented with a range of release strategies in the streaming service’s first year of operation. While horror hit “A Quiet Place 2” abided by a 45-day post-theatrical window, animated properties like “Paw Patrol” and “Clifford” have found audiences both in theaters and in homes on a day-and-date basis.

Ryan noted that Paramount Plus won’t be moving to any kind of one-size-fits-all approach to movie releases anytime soon as it continues to study different possibilities. “We absolutely do want to hone our strategy as we move on,” said Ryan. “But we think that having seen success in each of the different methods that we’ve released movies in, you know, this flexibility is important to have right now, and we may well find that we’re going to maintain a flexible model and approach into the future.”

Ryan cited the success of “Paw Patrol” as an example of how Paramount Plus has found early traction with kid viewers, an important audience target for the company. “The last thing you want to do once your kids gravitate toward a streaming service is unsubscribe from that streaming service,” he said. “So it really has great benefits in terms of retention.”

This was Ryan’s second appearance on the Strictly Business podcast, having first appeared in July 2018.

“Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher and SoundCloud.