Friday, February 09, 2018

Viacom Planning To Launch Streaming Service During Fall 2018 *Updated*

Viacom is a substantial player in Hollywood. It’s behind Paramount Pictures and cable networks Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV, BET, and VH1, among others. And it’s about to join other traditional programmers doing battle with streaming services and mobile and social players of all stripes by joining the streaming wars, aka the fight against Netflix, as the company’s executives have revealed a Viacom streaming service will debut in the fall!

Viacom executives mentioned their upcoming direct-to-consumer over-the-top (OTT) service during the company's First Quarter 2018 financial report, but was fairly short on details. The execs said that it is on track to launch by this fall in the U.S. and will include “tens of thousands of hours” of Viacom content, according to CFO Wade Davis.

In other words, it’ll be a product similar to Netflix, but with mainly Viacom content.

Viacom has never been entirely satisfied with other streaming services, and it may be making this move as it appears Disney will own a 60% stake in Hulu, in addition to ESPN Plus and its still-unnamed Netflix competitor. Most of Viacom's cable content is streaming on Hulu at the moment, but why leave your content on a service where your foe makes most of the money?

That said, Viacom is leaping into a suddenly crowded market. In addition to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, a host of streaming services are already online, like CBS All Access - although Viacom and CBS are looking to reunite - or about to launch in the next year or two, with companies ranging from DC Comics to Apple spending billions to commission new series, dust off old ones, and get into the SVoD space. And if that weren’t enough, traditional programmers have to fight Netflix, which is always rapidly expanding its services.

However, Viacom is in a strong position; it’s got Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Comedy Central, MTV and Paramount Network, and it’s done exceptionally well across the board from Spongebob SquarePants and PAW Patrol to Broad City and Lip Sync Battle.

In further articulating the strategy, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish made a thinly veiled reference to Starz, whose OTT service has inflamed tensions with distributors such as Altice, which continues a carriage impasse with Starz parent Lionsgate. Compared with such an offering, “We do not view this as a substitute product. We view this as a complement.”

Davis said one MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor) partner, which he did not name, is exploring an integration of the Viacom OTT into its the “This is a product that we think works in that ecosystem.”

Also, from TechCrunch (via Engadget):
Viacom to launch its own streaming service this year

Is there room in the market for yet another streaming service? Viacom thinks so. The company, on its earnings call on Thursday, said it’s planning to launch its own ad-supported streaming service by September 2018, the end of its fiscal year. The service will include “tens of thousands of hours of content” from across Viacom’s library.

Viacom had hinted about its plans in streaming before, but it shared a few more details on the call about what the service will include. The company, which owns cable TV channels like MTV and Comedy Central, already licenses some of its content to other streaming services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, as well as newcomer Philo (which it’s invested in.)

But it’s also withheld a lot from third-parties, which it believes will be a strategic advantage.

“It’s going to be rolled out in the U.S., in terms of the amount of content that it’s going to have, it’s going to have tens of thousands of hours of content that cut across the library we have on a global basis. And it’s important to note one of the reasons that we are able to do this is that we’ve chosen to curtail the amount of content that we license into third-party B2C experiences,” said Viacom CFO Wade Davis, on the call.

That’s hurt Viacom in the short-term, he noted, because the company hasn’t been able to fully take advantage of the licensing revenue it could have otherwise pulled in from other subscription video on-demand services.

The company didn’t precisely detail what the new service would include, in terms of programming, but did hint that Viacom will tap into its larger portfolio to differentiate its offering with content that can’t necessarily be found elsewhere.

“You should assume that we are really putting all of Viacom’s assets against this,” Davis added, noting that Viacom’s brands span categories like kids and family, music, comedy, African-American, and general entertainment. He also referenced Viacom’s entertainment presence via its brands Paramount, Paramount TV and the new Paramount Network, but didn’t specifically say how Paramount content would come into play in the new offering.

Additionally, the company stressed that the service is not designed for cord cutters, necessarily. That means, it’s not positioned as a way to watch Viacom’s programming when you ditch your cable or satellite TV subscription in favor of streaming.

Instead, Viacom says it sees it as an “MVPD [multichannel video programming distributor, like a cable TV provider] complement product.”


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Originally published: Thursday, February 08, 2018.

Sources: Uproxx, Deadline.
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