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On Tuesday, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish and chair Shari Redstone outlined the entertainment giant’s progress since the mega-merger that created it — and touted the company’s streaming upside.
During the company’s virtual annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, Redstone emphasized that for a pure-play company like ViacomCBS everything “starts and ends with content” and lauded streaming service Paramount+ for its “unique” combination of live sports and news programming. Redstone concluded: “Make no mistake: ViacomCBS is one of the kings of content.”
“We have made great strides toward transforming” the company since the Viacom-CBS merger, Redstone also said on Tuesday. “We are better positioned to compete because we have the best team in the industry.” And she argued: “We have the vision and the strategy to win and to grow.”
Bakish said in his remarks that since last year’s shareholder meeting, when the integration of the companies was still in its early stages, the firm was on track to exceed its targets for merger synergies.
“We are on track to exceed the cost synergies outlined at the outset of our merger,” Bakish said. “We realized more than $350 million in cost savings in 2020 and are on course to achieve $800 million in annualized run-rate merger-related cost synergies by the end of 2022, before consideration of one-time costs to achieve them.”
“There is no doubt that our diversified content slate differentiates Paramount+,” Bakish told shareholders. “By the end of 2024, we aim to reach 65-75 million global streaming subscribers across our services, 100-120 million global Pluto TV monthly average users and more than $7 billion in global streaming revenue, which we believe will unlock significant stockholder value. And it’s clear our unique streaming strategy is working.”
Asked how he feels about ViacomCBS’ ability to compete in the streaming space amid consolidation, Bakish said that there are three keys to streaming success: strong content, including a deep library and production capabilities, broad distribution and the financial capacity to invest and develop new streaming content. “We are one of the few companies” that has all three, Bakish argued.
The comments came a little more than a week after Discovery Inc. said it would merge with AT&T’s WarnerMedia, bringing together such TV channels as CNN, TBS, TNT, HGTV, Food Network and Discovery Channel, the Warner Bros. film studio, and streaming services HBO Max and Discovery+.
Naveen Chopra, the CFO of ViacomCBS, had said during a Monday investor conference that the conglomerate was not fazed by the Discovery-Warner deal. “We continue to really like our competitive position,” he told the virtual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference. “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.”
On the mergers and acquisitions front, the ViacomCBS CFO said the company would be opportunistic about potential deals as the industry consolidates, while adding there “aren’t any must-do deals” on the horizon.
Bakish on Tuesday also acknowledged the anniversary of George Floyd’s death by saying that ViacomCBS was “committed to justice, equality and inclusion.”
During the meeting, he and Redstone also acknowledged the death and impact of company founder Sumner Redstone.
The firm was created in December 2019 via the recombination of Viacom and CBS Corp. At last year’s annual meeting, ViacomCBS’ non-executive chair Redstone said the firm was moving quickly to reap the benefits of the merger and touted the company as “a global multiplatform content powerhouse.” Back then, she also expressed confidence in its stock upside and “significant growth opportunities.”
ViacomCBS added 6 million global streaming subscribers in its first quarter, driven by the rebranded Paramount+ service, to reach 36 million global paid streaming users. Its paying streaming services are led by the former CBS All-Access (which showed this year’s Super Bowl) that rebranded in the U.S. on March 4 as Paramount+, and Showtime OTT.
Bakish on Tuesday also expressed his confidence in A Quiet Place Part II, which will debut in cinemas and then come to Paramount+. He lauded the film, saying he has seen it several times, and touted that ticket pre-sales are above the levels seen when the company had originally wanted to launch it.
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