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ViacomCBS Networks International and Comcast’s Sky said Thursday that Paramount+ will launch on Sky platforms in the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 2022 “as part of a new multi-year distribution agreement that also includes the extended carriage of ViacomCBS’ leading portfolio of pay TV channels and the renewal of Sky as an ad sales partner in select markets.”
Raffaele Annecchino, president and CEO, ViacomCBS Networks International, said: “We are thrilled to expand our long-standing partnership with Sky to continue delivering ViacomCBS’ leading portfolio of premium entertainment brands to Sky customers and importantly bring Paramount+ to new audiences in all Sky markets, including the U.K., Ireland, Italy and GSA. This transformative distribution deal is key to accelerating our global ambitions in streaming while also supporting Sky’s strategic objectives to better serve audiences with greater flexibility in how they consume our content across all platforms.”
Paramount+ is the latest in a series of apps to come to the premium service Sky Q, “adding more than 10,000 hours of content, further enhancing Sky’s aggregation strategy and enabling Sky customers to watch even more of the best content together in one place on the Sky Q platform,” Sky said.
Added Stephen van Rooyen, executive vp and CEO, U.K. & Europe at Sky: “This is another example of how we are innovating for our customers and further aggregating all the best apps and content together in one place on Sky Q, giving them more great TV to watch than ever before. Paramount+ is an excellent service with a huge range of fantastic films and TV series, and our new, broader agreement with ViacomCBS will benefit both businesses.”
Upon launch, Sky Cinema subscribers will get Paramount+ included at no additional cost, “providing access to two fantastic services side by side with more than 10,000 hours of extra content for one affordable price,” Sky said.
ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said on the company’s earnings conference call on Thursday that the Sky agreement would be a “very meaningful” subscriber catalyst in 2022, with CFO Naveen Chopra calling it a “capital-efficient” way to build reach.
Since the May news of the Discovery-WarnerMedia merger, Wall Street observers have wondered if NBCUniversal and Sky owner Comcast, led by CEO Brian Roberts, and ViacomCBS, led by CEO Bob Bakish, would look for deals of their own to boost their scale, particularly in streaming. Some have suggested an outright merger of the two, but that is widely seen as facing regulatory hurdles.
The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Roberts, ViacomCBS chair Shari Redstone and Bakish had recent deal conversations.
Roberts said earlier this year that Comcast was looking to roll Peacock in markets outside the U.S., possibly via partnerships. Paramount+ has launched in Latin America and Australia, with the company targeting to be available in 45 markets by next year.
Roberts has emphasized several times in recent months that he likes Comcast’s current asset mix and portfolio, but Wall Street has continued to discuss possible deals.
“We are very pleased with our assets, our talent, our culture, the strategy,” the CEO said in June. “We think we have a unique company well-positioned to compete vigorously for talent, for customers and for growth in the years ahead.”
Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne noted in a recent report that the Journal had reported that Comcast “was assessing potential M&A options, including ViacomCBS and Roku. The company relayed through CNBC that this was ‘pure speculation.'”
Swinburne wrote: “We point out that the regulatory outlook for a hypothetical ViacomCBS transaction would be highly uncertain, and that FCC rules would immediately prohibit the ownership of two networks (CBS and NBC) and the combined station footprint. With respect to Roku, at the current share price a hypothetical all equity deal would be over 20 percent dilutive to earnings per share given the lack of meaningful…earnings at Roku.”
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