Today, ViacomCBS reported earnings for the third quarter of the year, exceeding market expectations. And during the investors conference call, CEO Bob Bakish talked about how streaming drives growth and towards a new focus for the media company of the future. He spoke specifically about how Star Trek has been and will be part of the ViacomCBS streaming, including the upcoming CBS All Access rebranding to Paramount +.
Star Trek helps fuel growth for ViacomCBS
Last year, CBS raised its end-of-2020 target to 18 million subscribers on their subscription streaming services (CBS All Access and Showtime combined). During today’s call, Baksih revealed that they are ahead of schedule on that target and mentioned how Star Trek helped drive this quarter̵7;s growth:
We ended the quarter with 17.9 million domestic subscribers, 72% more than the same period last year, we were essentially just below sales at the end of the year. [target]… And both, CBS All Access and Showtime [streaming], each experienced strong sales growth in subscriptions. Starting with Unlimited, the service benefits from strong sports demand, like UEFA and NFL, originals like Star Trek: Downstairsand CBS network content such as Oldest brother and Island of love, as well as from 3,500 additional library volumes from Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Smithsonian. Plus, almost 200 of Paramount movies that we added in late July, as part of our preview premiere. CBS Unlimited is currently in the early stages of benefiting from the strength of corporate combined.
Bakish also talked about their free streaming service Pluto that is currently benefiting from a Viacom / CBS merger, including the Star Trek channel launch in July:
Pluto TV continues to build its position as the number one ad-supported FAST, free online TV service in the United States. During the quarter, Pluto TV in the country [monthly users] increased 57% to 28.4 million and increased globally to nearly 36 million… In fact, in the US, Pluto currently has more than 100,000 hours of attractive content for consumers. We recently added nine ViacomCBS channels, including Star Trek, Bellator, CBSN, Dallasand CSI.
The Official Earnings Statement also uses the Star Trek brand to showcase the evolution of the streaming.
Star Trek is “doing well” for Unlimited (coming soon to Paramount +)
During the call, ViacomCBS CFO Naveen Choopra said the media company hopes to “support this momentum by increasing our investment in streaming”. And Bob Bakish has made it clear that the Unlimited Rebrand and relaunch plan is on track:
[Paramount+] on track in early 2021. As you know, Paramount + will combine live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment, including exclusive original content, along with a library of programs and Theatrical variety and depth, spanning all genres of shows from ViacomCBS ‘leading brands in a unified service… As we entered the year 21, we noticed significant growth ahead. Our preview launch at the end of July serves as a proof of concept, and it gives us confidence to keep streaming even more. We’re working on a plan that will bring more content, more marketing, and more distribution to the board.
In response to a question from a Wall Street analyst asking about content strategy for Paramount + (specifically including Star Trek), Bakish broadened the plan and how Star Trek is an important part of it:
We are completely focused on creating a must see service in Paramount +. And we believe our position on live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment is different and engaging. Now, as part of that, there’s no doubt the franchise will be the key to Paramount + ‘s success. And with regards to that, our strategy is to have new early variants of the franchise to act as the registry driver. Those originals… will be linked to larger library content to foster subscriber engagement. So we are very focused on this strategy. And I also note that one of our competitors has clearly demonstrated the value of that approach. So Star Trek, you mentioned, is supposed to be proof of the original concept for CBS All access. There are many variations of it on Unlimited, it works well for us.
It’s also worth noting that Star Trek Universe already has a prominent place on the cover of today’s earnings presentation.
Commitment to license
One of the recent streaming trends is that major media companies are withdrawing their license to keep all their own content on their own platforms, as WarnerMedia did with Friend on HBO Max or NBC Universal have done with Office on Peacock. However, ViacomCBS has continued to license content to third parties such as South Park HBO Max or deal just announced for The Chappelle Program to many streaming platforms including Netflix. When asked about how ViacomCBS views licensing, Bakish made it clear that they currently have no plans to keep everything to themselves:
In terms of the content licensing business, we have a huge asset base of content, from a library – a film library of 4,000 books, a television library of 140,000 episodes, currently producing 750 sets. Global. We can’t keep all of that to ourselves. It makes no sense. It’s too much… I’d like to say that aside from the financial value of the licensing, it’s also of strategic value. We can and do use third-party platforms to expand and extend our audience, and that also benefits the platforms we own and operate. It could be about third-party platform entries, driving demand for new installments or our subsections, it could be about broader sales like consumer products.
While the new Star Trek original series is exclusive to Unlimited US (and Netflix overseas), ViacomCBS licenses classic Star Trek shows for multiplayer streaming both in the US and on all over the world. Based on what the CEO has said, it seems that even after the launch of Paramount +, there aren’t any plans to pull all the content back to their own streaming platform.
No news on Paramount movies
On the Paramount Pictures side, there was very little discussion about the feature films during the call, except noting that due to the theatrical pandemic ‘non-material’ sales, the company minimized that by broadcasting. publish some movies into video on demand and / or streaming platforms. There hasn’t been any discussion of any plans for a theatrical release in 2021 and beyond, and as a result, there are no updates on plans for the Star Trek series, which are believed to be Priority is given to the studio’s new motion picture head.
Keep up with all Star Trek Universe news and analysis at TrekMovie.com.