Good Thing Viacom Kept Paramount; Storied Brand A “Natural” For Growing OTT Service, Says CEO Bob Bakish

Bob Bakish
Bob Bakish ViacomCBS

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish Tuesday called Paramount, “one of the most storied brands in Hollywood” and a “natural choice” of name and content machine for its fast-growing OTT service in a rebrand announced this morning.

Previous Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman wanted to unload the studio, or a big chunk of it. But Bakish is making it the beating heat of the company. The studio has “over a century old legacy of producing great content, is a brand that has always brought people together and, importantly, it’s a band that leverages ViacomCBS’ global position with near universal brand recognition.”

Bakish was speaking at a Goldman Sachs media conference on a busy day for the company, which this morning announced the name and some details for Paramount+, a rebranding of its CBS All Access streaming service, to debut early next year.

ViacomCBS shares were up over 2% mid-afternoon in a flattish market.

The launch news featured some original programming including a series called The Offer about the making of The Godfather, a classic Paramount franchise, and a spy show Lioness from Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan.

Domestically, Showtime will continue to operate separately from Paramount+. As the service rolls out internationally, however, Showtime product will incorporated, Bakish said.

Most CBS All Access subscribers pay $6 a month for an ad-supported version. The ad-free version costs $9.99 a month.

Julie McNamara, who heads programming for CBS All Access, and ViacomCBS digital chief Marc DeBevoise are discussing the content strategy of Paramount+ at NATPE Streaming Plus this afternoon.

CBS All Access and Showtime OTT will have an estimated 18 million combined paid domestic subscribers by year end, Bakish confirmed, up a hefty 60% from last year. He said Showtime added more subs in the past six months than it has in the past two and half years.

Asked about advertising, he reiterated comments from another media conference last week that trends improved “meaningfully” in July and August and returned to pre-COVID levels at Pluto TV and other corners of the business. Pharma, retail, insurance, financial and local advertising is picking up, the latter driven by a revival in automotive. Record political spending is yet to hit. Current third quarter advertising “will be dramatically better than 2Q.”

The combination of assets is helping ViacomCBS ink more favorable combination renewals and see affiliate growth in a very tough market for linear cable networks. The “conversations are much broader,” Bakish said, “given the breadth we now bring to bear.”

He said a deal announced yesterday to sell CNET Media Group for $500 million will translate to net proceeds of $350 million and allow it to pay down debt. Sales of other non-core assets Simon & Schuster and CBS’ historic Black Rock headquarters are pending.

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