News broke earlier this week that Pluto TV head honcho Tom Ryan will be the new overlord of all things streaming at ViacomCBS, adding CBS All Access to his portfolio alongside the linear streaming service.
Ryan’s nose for innovation suggests this will be a move that pays off and is essentially a promotion from within. Being able to find a smart streaming-minded exec who has already been integrated within ViacomCBS and knows the corporate culture is rare. The hope will be that, having already been part of the company, Ryan will be able to move the ViacomCBS streaming portfolio to new heights.
Given the success of Pluto TV since ViacomCBS acquired the company in January 2019, up by 10.9 million monthly users (an increase of 70%) as of the end of Q2 this year, it’s not hard to see why Ryan’s portfolio was expanded to include soon-to-launch Paramount+. The service was already slated to feature livestreams from CBS’ local news teams across the country; now a tighter integration with Pluto is possible.
Such a move could take the form of “Premium Pluto” being a part of Paramount+. Linear streaming channels that are only available to subscribers, featuring shows, movies and sports rights exclusive to the service, could be a great way to keep subscribers active for longer in the service, and thus served more ads. This is one reason why Peacock includes linear streaming channels across its service tiers; taking this up a notch to be based on subscriber-only content would be a great value add.
Another possibility, going in the opposite direction, is that this could herald the announcement of a free version of Paramount+. Much as Peacock has a free tier and HBO Max’s 2021 ad-supported product should be free to generate the most ad revenue, creating a free version of Paramount+ will mean opening up greater upsell possibilities to subscribe.
A key part of such a service would be integration, or even rebranding, of Pluto TV’s free streaming channels (think “Pluto TV on Paramount+”). ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish has often expounded during earnings calls on his streaming strategy, having free, paid and premium options to mirror traditional TV.
But there’s no reason for why the free and paid options have to stay distinct. Sticking with Bakish’s TV analogy, think how you can also access broadcast nets via a cable subscription as well as via an antenna, with such integration meaning that the viewer has a better, single-point experience across ViacomCBS’s streaming platforms.
The final possibility that Ryan’s new position brings up is an even greater cohesion between ViacomCBS properties and Pluto TV. Pluto has already seen CBS tentpole “CSI” gain a channel on the service, as well as CBS digital brands such as CBSN and CBS All Access promotional pop-ups for “Star Trek.” With Ryan gaining a greater voice in the organization, it wouldn’t be amiss to see more in-house branded Pluto channels appear (one bet will be a “Dexter”-themed one before the series returns in 2021).
Ryan is just settling into his new role, but the expectation will be for him to continue his Pluto magic with CBS All Access’ 2021 rebrand. Tighter integration between the two platforms is one thing to look for.