Paramount Plus and Showtime are two separate subscription services owned by the same company in a market that is already overcrowded with streaming and pay-TV competition. But that’s the way it’s going to stay for the two ViacomCBS brands — for now at least — as Paramount Plus president of original scripted series Nicole Clemens says the young streamer continues to carve out its identity as the home of “big blockbuster originals” versus Showtime’s slightly “more coastal” audience.
“I think they’re complementary and I think there’s going to be some overlap in a Venn diagram,” Clemens told Variety Tuesday, following Paramount Plus’ day of presentations at the virtual Television Critics Association winter press tour. “But when you think about Paramount Plus you think of broad, you think of global, the entire country, tentpole, maybe more popcorn; whereas Showtime might play a little more coastal. Not that they’re playing to the exclusion of the rest of the country, but they might be slightly more boundary-pushing.”
However, Clemens says Paramount Plus’ Jeremy Renner drama “Mayor of Kingstown” is about as boundary-pushing as it gets, pointing to that as the overlap between what defines a Paramount Plus show and Showtime series.
“But if you think of ‘Grease,’ ‘Fatal Attraction,’ ‘Happy Face,’ ‘The Good Fight,’ you’ve got the ‘Star Trek’ universe and ‘Halo.’ ‘Halo’ is a great example. You take a show like ‘Halo’ that that was actually being developed for Showtime, and I think it actually performs and belongs better on Paramount Plus because you’ve got the built-in fan base from ‘Trek,’ the sci-fi fans, but you also have a giant swing and a huge event series,” Clemens said. “And I think that’s what we’re trying to say Paramount Plus is, in terms of why you come to the service for those originals. They’re going to be big, blockbuster originals.”
Currently, Showtime and Paramount Plus are offered in a bundle together starting at $11.99 per month. And Clemens doesn’t see the two being rolled up further than that for the time being, meaning the idea of Showtime becoming a tab on Paramount Plus rather than its own platform is not an immediate plan — though ViacomCBS execs are watching to see how that relationship could “evolve.”
“Like I said, there is already bundling,” Clemens said. “And I think you’ll continue to see that evolve, and we do believe in the power of the brands and the way they drive each other.”
At the end of the third quarter of last year, Paramount Plus and Showtime OTT added 4.3 million global subscribers, raising their combined total to nearly 47 million. ViacomCBS is set to present its fourth-quarter earnings results at an investor day on Feb. 15, a little over a month after AT&T revealed HBO and HBO Max ended 2021 with 73.8 million global subscribers.
While Paramount Plus chief programming officer Tanya Giles could not comment on current subscriber numbers ahead of that presentation, she said during her and Clemens’ conversation with Variety that “the progress is good and we couldn’t be more pleased.”
“We are incredibly proud of our momentum. We came out [of] Q3 with strong numbers. And then Q4, we had strong numbers in November and then strong numbers in December, and then we beat those numbers in January,” Giles said. “So we are thrilled with how we’re progressing. We keep our eyes on our own ball and our own homework and really set our goals against how we’re building the content slate and how we’re building this diversity of content that will allow for even more subscribers to come in.”
Aside from its extensive library offerings, among the originals Paramount Plus is using to lure in more customers are its “South Park” movies from series creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” prequel “1883.” But with Parker and Stone getting ready to finally launch the 25th season of “South Park” on Comedy Central and Sheridan busy on several projects under his ViacomCBS deal, Variety asked when it would be likely that we see more of the already-ordered “South Park” movies and a potential second season of “1883” on Paramount Plus.
“We understand that they have the season right now and so they’re well into that,” Giles said, speaking to the “South Park” movies. “And then when they’re done with that, we will go back to them and say, ‘Alright, let’s look at the rest of the year and map out a plan.’ We loved releasing that first special on Thanksgiving, it was a huge opportunity to introduce this ‘South Park’ world into Paramount Plus. There is a great audience for it and we would love to do big events around that again, holiday events. But again, they have to have the right story at the right time and then we will make it as big as possible… There’s always ideas, they’re always thinking, they never stop thinking of ‘South Park.’ And the plans are to come after Season 25.”
As for a second season renewal for “1883,” Clemens says, “There’s a whole Taylor Sheridan universe coming your way…,” with Giles adding, “The journey west is a long one, there’s lots of stories to tell.”