ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish says better-than-expected customer growth for CBS All Access and his studio’s other streaming platforms has been helped by consumers cocooning in front of video screens during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID has been a tailwind for streaming,” Bakish told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference during a virtual appearance on Tuesday. The ViacomCBS boss was talking about CBS All Access after its subscriber target for 2020 was raised to 18 million consumers now being set to rebrand as Paramount+ in early 2021.
Bakish said CBS All Access growth had also been driven by strong programming and broad distribution of live sports, news and entertainment offerings. “We feel very good about the growth trajectory we’re on at CBS All Access, and what’s to come,” he told the investors conference.
ViacomCBS is also looking to continue launching its streaming platforms overseas. “Streaming is clearly a global opportunity and we believe there’s a substantial international opportunity, both on the free side and with All Access,” Bakish said.
Paramount+ will be more entertainment-focused as it rolls out internationally in 2021, as ViacomCBS doesn’t have the same rights to live sports outside the U.S. Bakish also talked about a separate deal to sell CNET for $500 million as part of a bid by ViacomCBS to unload non-core assets.
“It is not a studio, it is not networks and it’s not streaming,” he said of CNET, from which net proceeds in the $350 million range will be used by the studio to pay down debt.
The Hollywood studio has already put two other non-core assets up for sale from the combined Viacom and CBS entity: book publisher Simon & Schuster and Black Rock, the longtime headquarters of CBS in Manhattan.
“We’ll proceed with those when market conditions allow,” Bakish said of possible sales of Simon & Schuster and Black Rock amid pandemic-era markets.