Paramount+'s Pitch: Big Name Reboots, Spinoffs and Sequels (Plus Sports)

Bob Bakish - Getty - H 2019
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The rebranded, revamped and supercharged version of CBS All Access will launch on March 4.

For more than 100 years, the Paramount brand has stood as a symbol for the golden age of Hollywood filmmaking. On Wednesday afternoon, executives from ViacomCBS made the case for why Paramount and its gleaming mountain logo will be what pushes the entertainment conglomerate into the streaming era.

"This is not your father's Viacom. This is not my father's either," ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone said to start the presentation, evoking he memory of her late father, Sumner Redstone, whose legacy looms large over the company.

Her remarks unfurled a three-hour presentation in which multiple executives touted the "mountain of entertainment" available on Paramount+, including 30,000 episodes of television and 2,500 films, many of which will make their way from theaters directly to streaming customers.

Heading into the event, a lot was already known about Paramount+, which isn’t a new service but rather a rebranded, revamped and significantly supercharged version of the direct-to-consumer platform CBS All Access that the company has operated since 2014. When CBS All Access relaunches as Paramount+ on March 4, its existing lineup of programming — originals such as The Good FightStar Trek: Discovery and live news and sports — will get a boost from sister brands across the ViacomCBS portfolio.

Among the 36 originals expected within Paramount+'s first year are a revival of Frasier, a Yellowstone spinoff and new Taylor Sheridan show starring Jeremy Renner. Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show, will host a new weekly show for the service. Inside Amy Schumer, which last aired in 2016, will return. A streaming version of CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes that previously streamed on Quibi will also be available. Meanwhile, shows originally planned for other ViacomCBS networks — including a Halo adaptation, Star Trek animated series and the seventh and final season of Younger — will make their home on Paramount+.

ViacomCBS has also lured a number of top creators to the service. Black-ish creator Kenya Barris is working on a show about modern relationships for Paramount+ as he negotiates an exit from his Netflix overall deal. The creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender have left the Netflix live-action remake of the cult classic to return to ViacomCBS, where they will develop an expanded universe based on the animated series

On the film side, the service will benefit from shortened theatrical windows for many of ViacomCBS titles. Both A Quiet Place Part II and Mission: Impossible 7 will stream on Paramount+ 45 days after they leave theaters, or about half the normal time it would take for a film to become available after leaves theaters. Under terms of a new output deal with MGM's premium network Epix, the studio's features, including Lady Gaga-starrer House of Gucci, Rocky franchise sequel Creed III and James Bond pic No Time to Die will head to Paramount+ after their theatrical runs. The service will also be home to 700 films from the Miramax library.

ViacomCBS will offer Paramount+ at two different price points. An ad-supported tier that features live NFL games, CBSN and thousands of on-demand original and library titles will cost $5 per month. An ad-free tier that also includes mores live sports, live local news and live CBS network programming will cost $10 per month. The lower priced tier, which won't be available to subscribers until June, is $1 cheaper than what what it cost to subscribe to CBS All Access with ads.

Paramount+ subscribers will also be able to bundle a subscription to sister streamer Showtime for an additional fee.

ViacomCBS is the last of the major entertainment companies to debut a broad streamer, following similar launches by Disney (Disney+), WarnerMedia (HBO Max) and NBCUniversal (Peacock). Netflix, meanwhile, remains the market leader with more than 200 million global subscribers. But thanks to CBS All Access, ViacomCBS has a head start in attracting subscribers. The company revealed Thursday that All Access and Showtime had reached a combined 19.2 million U.S. subscribers at the end of 2020. Globally, ViacomCBS has nearly 30 million subs.

The company says it expects to hit between 65 million and 75 million global Paramount+ subscribers by 2024, helping to fuel a projected $7 billion in streaming revenue.

The investment in streaming doesn't come without its costs, however. ViacomCBS says it expects its investment in streaming content to grow from $1 billion in 2020 to more than $5 billion by 2024.

For the last few years, ViacomCBS has prioritized its role as a supplier for other networks, selling shows like Jack Ryan for Amazon and Emily in Paris for Netflix. Many of its crown jewel library shows like Yellowstone are also available for streaming on other services. "We know how to make hits," CEO Bob Bakish noted at the start of the presentation, which started about 30 minutes late, prompting jokes on Twitter about the company's ability to handle a large-scale streaming rollout.

ViacomCBS has also invested into the free streaming space through Pluto TV, which it acquired for $340 million in 2019.

But executives spent much of their time before investors touting how the company's multi-pronged strategy sets it apart in the increasingly competitive streaming wars. The free, ad-supported Pluto TV, for instance, can be used as a way to hook viewers on shows and then up-sell them to a subscription service. The company says that's exactly what happened after it added a Showtime Selects channel for its 30 million monthly active users to sample some fo the programming typically only available to the premium cable channel's subscribers. Pluto TV is expected to launch a similar channel to promote Paramount+

"It helps to stand for something," Bakish said to close out the presentation. "We stand for something unique."