Viacom is set to launch a direct-to-consumer streaming service in late 2018.
Bob Bakish, who has been president and CEO of Viacom for 14 months, on Wednesday said the media giant in 2016 started pulling back on licensing its content, especially in the U.S. market, to exploit opportunities in the emerging over-the-top digital space.
“Later in the year, you’ll hear about the product we’ll launch to leverage those assets, including over 10,000 hours of library product that we’ll implement on a direct to-consumer basis,” the exec told the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco during a session that was webcast.
“I realize that sounds cryptic, but it’s an opportunity we’re excited about,” he added. Bakish told investors the streaming plans were part of a turnaround strategy at Viacom to exploit the full potential of its global portfolio of entertainment brands as traditional media increasingly competes against digital insurgents like Netflix and Google.
Viacom isn’t along in launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service. CBS, which is touted as a possible merger partner with Viacom, has two main streaming services, Showtime OTT and CBS All Access, and an OTT news offering and an Entertainment Tonight digital channel coming in the fall.
And Disney earlier announced it will pull its movies from Netflix and will launch a streaming service of its own in 2019. It also plans an ESPN streaming service to launch later this year.
Elsewhere, Time Warner’s HBO recently launched direct-to-consumer services in Central and East European markets. And Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting unit and Warner Bros. Digital Networks struck a joint venture to launch the subscription movie streaming service FilmStruck in international markets.
Now Viacom is set to join Starz, Showtime and others in the stand-alone subscription streaming space.
“The domestic linear TV business is not … a substantial driver of growth going forward. We have very modest expectations there. But when you add all these other components, we see a clear path to top-line growth, including in our domestic media networks business,” Bakish argued.
The Viacom head did not address speculation about a possible merger with CBS, including reports he met recently with CBS CEO Les Moonves to discuss a possible combination of the two media companies. But he did focus on his continuing turnaround strategy, which includes driving into the digital space and onto new platforms.
“It’s accelerating our participation in next-generation platforms and solutions. You can think about that as the MVPD space, the mobile space and of course the advanced advertising space,” Bakish told the conference.