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Though Paramount+ has yet to reach the subscriber numbers of Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max, top executives at ViacomCBS are forging ahead with the company’s streaming revolution by relying on more revivals and reboots of nostalgic, fan-favorite IP and sequels of popular projects to draw in viewer interest.
The company’s annual investor day presentation on Tuesday, which arrived close to the one-year anniversary since Paramount+’s launch, opened with a flashy rebrand: ViacomCBS will now be known as Paramount, in a nod to the legacy film studio.
The announcement — just over two years after Viacom and CBS officially recombined — came shortly after an eyebrow-raising clip of chairwoman Shari Redstone and CEO Bob Bakish starring in an explosive action sequence as they drove together in Bumblebee, the yellow robot from the Transformers franchise.
“Paramount has always represented brilliant storytelling for audiences around the globe — on the big screen, the small screen and every device in between,” Redstone said to open the investor day event. “It is what we are. It is who we are. It is who we are destined to be.”
Executives are still tying that future with streaming, even as Paramount+ lags behind competitors in subscriber numbers and global reach. The nascent streaming service reached 32.8 million subscribers to end 2021, growing from 16.5 million at the end of Q1.
The company is also making moves to further integrate Paramount+ with premium cable network Showtime by unveiling an option to watch Showtime programming on Paramount+ at a $12-a-month fee (with ads) or $15 (ad-free). And Paramount will up its spending on streaming content from $2.2 billion in 2021 to $6 billion by 2024. (In comparison, Netflix spent $17 billion while Disney spent $25 billion last year.)
Domestic average revenue per user (ARPU) for Paramount+ was close to $9 during Q4, according to Paramount CFO Naveen Chopra, though that figure includes paid and promotional subscribers. Netflix, on the other hand, most recently reported its U.S./Canada ARPU at $14.78, followed by HBO and HBO Max at $11.15 domestically. Disney+’s domestic ARPU is the lowest at $6.68, though Hulu is the moneymaker with its live TV subscription tier bringing an average $87.01 per user.
Among the new content releases unveiled on Tuesday included a new Star Trek film expected in December 2023, a third Sonic the Hedgehog movie and a live-action series based on the Knuckles character from the franchise for Paramount+, a third Quiet Place film with John Krasinski and a slew of kids programming based on the SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Blue’s Clues, Baby Shark and Paw Patrol IP. Paramount+ will also be the streaming home for all the film studio’s releases following their theatrical releases beginning in 2024.
But during a Q&A with analysts, Bakish emphasized that new content wasn’t the only draw for increasing subscriber engagement.
“What is tremendously valuable in streaming is library and specifically series that are deep in number of seasons,” the executive said, pointing to series like SpongeBob, NCIS, FBI and SEAL Team. “It’s not all about exclusive originals. … We have very high-quality libraries from the original Paramount Studio, from CBS, from Showtime, from the cable networks, and those are tremendously valuable for streaming, both for Paramount+ and for Pluto TV. So don’t lose sight of that value because it is very material, and it’s key to our long-term streaming economics.”
With current Paramount+ subscriber numbers exceeding previous expectations, executives are now eyeing a new benchmark: upwards of 120 million subscribers by 2024.
“We are very early in the Paramount+ subscriber journey,” Bakish said. “So there’s a ways to go in terms of the scale Paramount+ will build in the United States.”
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