Viacom International to Roll out Mobile TV Apps

Bob Bakish - PR Head Shot - 2010

The Viacom Play Plex suite of branded apps offers "maximum flexibility in distributing our content as the way viewers consume their favorite TV shows continues to evolve," the company's global networks arm says.

Viacom will launch a suite of mobile TV apps for all its major brands in all its international markets later this year to reach existing and new consumers as people increasingly watch shows and movies on mobile devices.

The portfolio of apps, dubbed Viacom Play Plex, will allow its distribution partners to offer smartphone and tablet users around the world access to live and on-demand content from all its international brands. Starting in the fourth quarter, the app will start rolling out in the company's 180 international territories, with first deals for authenticated apps with distribution companies expected to be announced at a later date.

In the U.S., Viacom Media Networks has already been offering a range of authenticated mobile apps to support its TV channel brands. Now Viacom International Media Networks will off a separate mobile app for each of the company's major international TV brands, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Channel, Spike and BET, based on the same Play architecture.

Viacom is looking at different distribution options for Viacom Play Plex, with the apps possibly being offered on both a collective and standalone basis to existing pay TV partners so they can integrate it into their TV Everywhere services. Viacom will also look for new distribution partners for the apps, including mobile network operators.

Bob Bakish, president and CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, said: "Viacom Play Plex offers us maximum flexibility in distributing our content as the way viewers consume their favorite TV shows continues to evolve. These apps are designed to complement our linear pay TV channels and to allow our existing distribution partners to deepen and improve the entertainment experience they offer their subscribers. But, Viacom Play Plex also opens up new distribution opportunities for us, particularly in the fast-growing mobile TV sector, and, ultimately, positions us to succeed in a world of more personalized entertainment services and greater consumer choice."

He  added: "We believe no other international entertainment company is offering this type of innovation at this scale, serving every major demographic in every major TV market."

Bakish also told THR: "We’re looking at evolving consumer behavior in terms of how they access content. About 18 months ago or so we decided to more formally embrace mobile platforms. The Nick app has been getting traction, and we saw an opportunity to provide a more holistic solution, including other brands. We think this is a very important contemporary complement to the products we are already providing. We think this is additive to consumer media consumption."

In addition to live, local linear TV streams, the apps also offer on-demand content and, in the case of Nick Play, games. The apps, which will be available in both iOS and Android versions, focus on an intuitive, video-focused interface and enhanced video player, which reduces loading and buffering time. It also includes an algorithmic menu that adapts to users' tastes. The apps will also include social and sharing components.

Each branded Play app will be localized for each country in terms of language and available content, including such global hits as SpongeBob SquarePants, Catfish, Lip Sync Battle and local productions. The company said it could add advertising, e-commerce and other offerings over time because the apps, developed in-house, allow for such functionality.

"Consumers want easy access to video, and so video is already playing when you enter the apps," Dan Reich, senior vp multiplatform product strategy & development at Viacom International Media Networks, told THR. "Historically, you have had static images and multi-step menus. Our goal is to get consumers into video as quickly as possible." Since the app is video-based, there is also little in terms of graphics and text that needs to be localized, he said.

Bakish said the apps will also offer acquired content, but with Viacom spending more than $4 billion a year on original content, it has the advantage of being able to tap into its own deep programming pool. "We own and control a lot of rights," he said. "So with the launch of such a product, we have a significant advantage. We still have to pay participants, but we control a lot of content. Since this is in the first wave of deployment TV Everywhere usage, even with licensed shows, we are in pretty good shape."

Viacom's Nick app, which was developed for the U.S. and has been rolled out in five international markets since 2013, is being updated and rebranded as Nick Play internationally to be offered as part of Viacom Play Plex.

Viacom's and other research has highlighted the appeal of TV Everywhere mobile TV services, with consumers saying they add value to existing pay TV subscriptions and make them more likely to stay with pay TV providers.