UPDATED at 7:35AM PT with more Paramount film details. CBS All Access will get a significant reboot this summer, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told Wall Street analysts Thursday, with Paramount films and shows from Nickelodeon, BET and other networks joining the service.
The subscription offering will be rebranded and will also expand internationally in the next 12 months, Bakish said.
“Our biggest franchises will be key to this strategy,” Bakish said on the company’s quarterly earnings call. The effort will leverage an “already-developed tech platform … we are not building from scratch,” he added.
More than 100 library films from Paramount were added to All Access on Thursday, the company said after the earnings call. Titles include some installments in the Star Trek franchise, The Godfather, Terms of Endearment and An Inconvenient Truth.
“Expanding CBS All Access’ library of films with these iconic titles from Paramount Pictures is just one of the many ways we’re integrating the phenomenal catalog of IP available to us within the ViacomCBS family,” All Access programming chief Julie McNamara said in a press release issued after the earnings call. “The service is on a growth trajectory with two record-breaking months in March and April, and we look forward to bringing even more premium content and value to our subscribers in the coming months.”
Other networks from the portfolio whose offerings will join All Access include Smithsonian and the Paramount Network. BET last September launched its own subscription streaming entrant, BET+, which costs $10 a month and includes series, movies, and specials from BET Networks and creators like Tyler Perry, Tracy Oliver and Will Packer.
While there are still plenty of questions about the road ahead for All Access — including its name, financial profile, pricing and exact programming lineup — Bakish’s commentary was a step forward from the last earnings call. Speaking to investors in February, Bakish teased a streaming “house of brands” that would take advantage of the full portfolio of ViacomCBS, but many analysts were caught up short by the lack of specifics.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the sense of urgency traditional companies have about boosting their own streaming outlets. In recent months, Disney, NBCUniversal and WarnerMedia have also mounted significant streaming efforts as media companies look to close the gap with Netflix and other incumbents.
Original programming will continue to mine the company’s IP, following in the line of breakout shows like The Good Fight and Star Trek: Picard.
CFO Christine Spade said All Access and Showtime, the company’s two biggest subscription streaming offerings, remain on track for 16 million subscribers by the end of 2020. That figure is in line with previous internal targets. CBS, prior to its merger with Viacom, generally did not break out the specific split between All Access and Showtime, but in recent years they had been fairly evenly split. The two biggest months in terms of customer acquisition have come during the first half of 2020, the company said.
As of March 31, All Access and Showtime together had 13.5 million subscribers, up 50% from the same quarter a year ago. Streaming revenue in the quarter also rose 50% to $471 million.
CBS All Access currently costs $6 a month for a basic, ad-supported offering and $10 a month for an ad-free version.
Bakish didn’t offer a firm projection when asked by one analyst if a hold-back effort comparable with NBCUniversal’s reclaiming of The Office or Disney’s withdrawal from Netflix could be in the offing. ViacomCBS has taken some knocks for licensing to third parties — South Park went to HBO Max and Nickelodeon forged an output deal with Netflix — rather than keeping content in house. Bakish earlier in the call noted the sale of Paramount comedy The Lovebirds to Netflix.
Unlike many other SVOD platforms, All Access also will be able to continue delivering live and on-demand news and sports programming via 200 CBS affiliates. Bakish described a “critical mass of live sports,” calling out exclusive streaming rights to the National Women’s Soccer League and UEFA Champions League soccer. CBS telecasts of NFL games, NCAA basketball and golf have long been a hallmark of CBS All Access, which launched in 2015.
Distribution deals are a key element in gaining scale in streaming. All Access was added Thursday to Comcast’s Xfinity platforms, which will introduce it to a majority of the households served by the No. 1 U.S. cable operator.
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