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Naveen Chopra, executive vp and CFO of ViacomCBS, says the studio is not phased by AT&T’s entertainment arm unveiling a major deal to merge with Discovery Inc. for global reach.
“We continue to really like our competitive position. We’ve had tremendous momentum,” Chopra told the virtual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference about ViacomCBS’ flagship streaming service Paramount+ during a session that was webcast on Monday.
Chopra added the WarnerMedia/Discovery deal wouldn’t alter his studio’s streaming focus. “The transaction itself doesn’t change anything about our strategy. We’ve been focused on streaming growth and we’ve been very focused on transitioning our assets to help drive streaming,” he said.
Chopra also addressed the shortened theatrical windows expected for ViacomCBS movie titles as John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place Part II gets set to land on Paramount+ 45 days after it opens in theaters over Memorial Day. “We are seeing some compelling evidence based on the research that we do that customers are ready to come back to theaters. But the fact is that model is changing and consumers really enjoy seeing movies in theaters, but they’re also consuming content through a streaming service,” he observed.
“Given what’s happening in streaming, that shorter theatrical window is likely here to stay,” Chopra added.
The former Amazon exec joined ViacomCBS in 2020 to lead its finances as the Hollywood studio aggressively leaned into the streaming space and digital platforms with Paramount+, the subscription VOD service that replaced CBS All Access, and Pluto TV. Chopra said ViacomCBS’ competitive position against WarnerMedia and Discovery was already bolstered by the studio being a giant global producer of content, having a broad and deep programming library of around 140,000 episodes of TV, extensive global distribution relationships and the financial scale to keep investing in new original content.
“We had all those things eight days ago before the Warner-Discovery deal was announced and we still have them today, so we feel really good about that,” Chopra said. ViacomCBS’ finance chief said Paramount+ had already aggressively increased its original content spend before WarnerMedia and Discovery said they would merge their media and entertainment assets, bringing together TV channels like CNN, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network and Discovery Channel, the Warner Bros. film studio, and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+.
“Our strategy of continuing to pivot our assets and resources to streaming is working and that’s evidenced by the early returns we’ve seen from Paramount+,” Chopra argued. And while investing in streaming content to attract new Paramount+ subscribers in an increasingly competitive streaming TV arena, Chopra said ViacomCBS would continue to sustain its traditional TV business and its key revenue streams, which includes licensing content to third party distributors.
“Early signs are very good both on Paramount+ and what we’ve been able to do with the other parts of the business,” Chopra told the virtual investor conference. On the mergers and acquisitions front, the ViacomCBS finance chief said the studio would be opportunistic about potential deals as the industry consolidates, while adding there “aren’t any must-do deals” on the horizon.
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