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ViacomCBS had its best month of subscriber growth ever for its Paramount+ and Showtime streaming services in November, president and CEO Bob Bakish told Wall Street on Tuesday, also touting its growing total streaming revenue and film slate for 2022.
Speaking during the virtual UBS Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, he said that “November was our best month ever” for Paramount+, which is “having a big quarter,” but later also touted Showtime for achieving the same feat.
The company had previously said that Paramount+ had its strongest weekly growth ever by adding more than 1 million subscribers during the week of Nov. 8.
In the current fourth quarter, total streaming revenue is crossing an annual run rate of $5 billion, Bakish shared, adding: “We are getting somewhere significant pretty quickly.” ViacomCBS said in February that it expects to grow its streaming revenue to $7 billion by 2024, up from a then-current run rate of $3.6 billion.
ViacomCBS had added 4.3 million global streaming subscribers in its third quarter ended in September, driven by the Paramount+ service, to reach nearly 47 million global paid users, the entertainment company reported in early November. Management said on an earnings conference call that streaming subscriber growth in the current fourth quarter would come in ahead of the third quarter. Bakish said on Tuesday that the acceleration in the current period is looking even more pronounced now than previously thought.
Looking ahead, Bakish said on Tuesday, “I can’t wait for ’22,” touting a “fantastic pipeline” of content, including a “killer film slate,” including Scream, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7. Most of the movies for the new year are “all pretty much in the can,” Bakish said, but mentioned there was “a little more work” to do on Sonic 2.
Bakish also got a question on the advertising market and supply chain challenges. “We are not immune from the supply chain issues,” but that is a “transitory” issue, he said.
ViacomCBS’ linear TV advertising revenue will still grow in the current fourth quarter though, he added.
Bakish was also asked about his thoughts on the outlook for further mergers or acquisitions across the sector and the need for smaller players to take on such Hollywood giants as The Walt Disney Co. and the planned Warner Bros. Discovery, along with Netflix in the streaming age.
“There is certainly potential for additional consolidation in this industry, particularly with respect to the smaller players,” he said, with ViacomCBS ready to look for acquisition opportunities, pointing out past deals in international markets. “But big-picture, we really like the configuration of the company,” Bakish emphasized. “You see us extracting significant value from it, particularly on the streaming growth side.” As such, management will focus “overwhelmingly” on organic growth opportunities that don’t require deals.
ViacomCBS’ ViacomCBS Networks International unit recently acquired a majority stake in Spanish-language content producer Fox TeleColombia & Estudios TeleMexico from The Walt Disney Co. and the founding family of the company. Combined with the conglomerate’s existing portfolio in Latin America, including its studio business and broadcasters Telefe in Argentina and the recently acquired Chilevisión in Chile, this deal “will position ViacomCBS as one of the leading Spanish-language content-production companies in the world,” the conglomerate has said.
The U.S. government recently filed an antitrust lawsuit seeking to block ViacomCBS from selling its publishing unit, Simon & Schuster, to Penguin Random House. It alleged that the $2 billion deal “would give Penguin Random House outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work.” In particular, the government alleged that the combination would be harmful to authors of “anticipated top-selling books” by depriving them of competition in the publishing market.
Bakish said on Tuesday that Penguin Random House “has agreed to take all necessary steps to obtain the required regulatory approvals, including defending the transaction through litigation. So that’s what they will do if need be.”
ViacomCBS, created in December 2019 via the recombination of Viacom and CBS Corp., has this year seen a management change at its studio. Asked about the future of the film unit, now led by Brian Robbins, Bakish said in November that the new studio head was working on a slate and was looking to “lean more into franchises” and a “multifaceted” model that includes streaming.
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