Feb 20, 2020
By Bob Bakish
"We have a plan to get there…now comes the fun part of executing it."
Less than three months ago, we merged to become ViacomCBS, one of the largest content producers and providers in the world. We’ve since made great progress to integrate and transform the business as we move quickly to unlock the full power of this company organizationally, operationally and financially.
Today, during our first-ever ViacomCBS earnings call, I outlined our strategy for delivering greater value in 2020, focusing on three priorities:
- Maximize the power of our content;
- Unlock more value from our biggest revenue lines; and
- Accelerate our momentum in streaming and digital video
First, we’re focused on increasing the value of our content, IP and franchises across our portfolio, and applying more rigor to managing our content mix, investment and returns.
With our portfolio combined, we now have a powerful promotional platform to showcase our biggest content priorities, from franchises to football. We’re also developing global, cross-company franchise opportunities. For example, on the heels of the launch of Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access – which broke our records for total streams and subscriber sign-ups – we’re extending the Star Trek franchise across the house. Building on the success of Discovery and Picard, we have two additional series in production at CBS All Access and Nickelodeon, with two more series in development; a series of Picard novels rolling out at Simon & Schuster; and a highly anticipated new Star Trek feature film at Paramount.
When it comes to more effectively managing our content mix, investment and returns, we are prioritizing our spend in streaming and studio production – two key growth areas – while keeping our linear TV content spend levels consistent with last year. We’re also boosting cross-company use of our IP to improve ROI and attract new audiences in a cost-effective way.
This strategy is already in place at Showtime, which will air a special season of VH1’s RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars on a first-window basis – a move we think will help drive Showtime subscriber growth and further strengthen the return on investment in this franchise. We see an even bigger opportunity to better monetize some of Showtime’s “plex” channels, which is why we’ll be rebranding and relaunching Showcase as SHO*BET. This channel will feature African American scripted series from Showtime and BET, as well as popular movies and specials, helping us benefit from the growing demand for premium African American content across platforms.
Maximizing the power of our content is strongly tied to our second 2020 priority: Unlocking more value from our biggest revenue lines.
In distribution, our leading broadcast and entertainment brands, and strength in live, local, news and sports, makes ViacomCBS a must-have. And by working with distribution partners to deepen our relationships through advanced advertising, broadband products and more, we can continue to serve the largest addressable market and grow share in the face of industry macro-trends. We’ve already seen the benefit of our combined portfolio in the recent renewal of our carriage agreement with Comcast, which brings CBS All Access to set-top boxes for the first time. And thanks to Paramount, we’re also critical to the film distribution ecosystem. Look no further than our most recent release, Sonic the Hedgehog, which delivered the biggest box office opening ever for a video game adaptation at more than $70 million domestically.
We’re also a must-buy for advertisers thanks to our leadership in U.S. reach across linear and digital, as well as our advanced ad capabilities, which were a key driver of our domestic cable networks’ ad growth in Q4 and full year 2019. This momentum positions us well for the next Upfront, especially as we apply Viacom’s advanced ad business across CBS’ massive audience reach, and as we continue to expand our premium digital video inventory, already amongst the largest in the industry.
We are an essential content licensing partner too. Along with an extensive library of IP to leverage, we now have a single content licensing sales force in place. This team will focus on extracting incremental benefit through the packaging of film and TV, tailoring offerings to better meet client needs while supporting our own platforms. Likewise, we will also continue to drive greater value from our third-party studio production, a quickly scaling and fundamentally profitable business that allows our key franchises to reach more consumers, and enables us to efficiently grow our content and IP library for the long-term.
Finally, our third 2020 priority is to accelerate our momentum in streaming. This starts with us building on our strong foundation in ad-supported streaming through Pluto TV – a leading free streaming TV service in the U.S. with over 22 million monthly active users – as well as in pay streaming, where our offerings account for more than 11 million domestic subscribers – up over 50% year-on-year. We’re also making strides to expand these services internationally. Pluto is available in the U.K., Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and launches in Latin America next month, while CBS All Access is available in Canada and Australia, as are our Paramount+ and Noggin products in numerous territories.
Beyond usage, our streaming foundation is also financial. In 2019, our domestic streaming and digital video business – which includes subscription revenue and digital video advertising – delivered approximately $1.6B billion in revenue, which we expect to grow between 35 to 40 percent this year.
Of course, the opportunity is much, much larger. Our go-forward streaming strategy is rooted in the belief that the streaming world will evolve similarly to linear, as defined by free, broad pay and premium pay segments. And, just like in linear, we’ll have robust offerings in each, allowing us to migrate consumers across price points through promotion and bundling, and increase subscriber acquisition, retention and lifetime value.
With Pluto TV as our free offering and Showtime OTT as our premium pay product, we will expand CBS All Access to serve the broad pay streaming segment. This differentiated service will reaffirm and grow the value of entertainment, news and sports content – through on demand and live experiences – for audiences worldwide. In effect, it will be a combined “House of Brands” product, with content added from Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET and Smithsonian, along with popular Paramount films. Importantly, we will make this offering compatible with the evolving distribution landscape to broaden our partnerships across the traditional and OTT spaces, including mobile.
As we look at our road ahead in 2020, I am confident in our ability to capitalize on our status as one of the biggest content providers in the world and become the most important partner in the media ecosystem. For the year, we expect to accelerate our revenue growth by mid-single-digits, reflecting strength across our business segments. We have a plan to get there…now comes the fun part of executing it.
†See ViacomCBS Q4 2019 earnings release for information regarding our use of non-GAAP financial measures and forward-looking statements.