Viacom International Taps Pierluigi Gazzolo to Lead Streaming Push

Pierluigi Gazzolo - P 2019
Courtesy of Viacom International Media Networks

The company veteran's promotion signals "the increasing importance" of its studio and streaming businesses, the firm says.

Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) on Tuesday said that it has promoted Pierluigi Gazzolo, president of VIMN Americas and executive vp Nickelodeon International, to the new role of president of OTT International and Viacom International Studios.

The company said that the appointment of the 26-year Viacom veteran to the new role, ahead of the planned completion of Viacom's merger with CBS Corp. in early December, signals "the increasing importance of VIMN’s studio and OTT business." Gazzolo will report to David Lynn, president and CEO of VIMN.

In his new role, Gazzolo will initially focus on accelerating the rollout of Pluto TV across international markets, starting with its launch across Latin America in early 2020. He is also charged with further establishing VIMN’s direct-to-consumer products, such as Paramount+, in partnership with distributors.

"He will also be responsible for creating an integrated, Viacom International Studios operation, managing original content creation assets across ViacomCBS internationally," the company said. "This new structure will enable the company to accelerate the creation of original content across international markets, consistent with the ViacomCBS mission of becoming one of the world’s pre-eminent content companies."

The appointment will see the executive roll out in more foreign markets a content and distribution strategy that has driven growth in Viacom's Latin American unit. Gazzolo is, for example, credited with boosting the firm's reach beyond linear TV in the region through such streaming services as Paramount+ and Noggin and also worked on the launch of Pluto Latino channels targeting U.S. Hispanics earlier this year. Under his leadership, the company also launched Viacom International Studios (VIS) following the 2016 acquisitions of Argentinean broadcaster Telefe and Brazilian YouTube comedy channel Porta dos Fundos. "Synergies recognized by those acquisitions enabled the launch of VIS first in the Americas in 2018 and then in Europe, including the U.K., and Asia in 2019," Viacom said.

"Our strategy has been an incredible driver of growth in Latin America and one that now David [Lynn] and Bob [Bakish] want me to replicate internationally," Gazzolo told THR. "I am excited to partake in this transformation that ViacomCBS will have internationally. These areas [streaming and Viacom International Studios] are definitely going to be a driving force for growth for ViacomCBS internationally."

In a statement, he also highlighted: "It’s an extraordinary moment to help drive the expansion of both Pluto TV and OTT internationally, which is the fastest growing part of the video business; and at the same time, create a unified international studio for Viacom — when the demand for content has never been greater."

Gazzolo will also work closely with Marc DeBevoise, who was recently tapped as chief digital officer for ViacomCBS and president and CEO of CBS Interactive, and Tom Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Pluto TV, to expand the merged company’s digital strategy to the international market.  

He said Tuesday that it was too early to say whether the CBS All Access streaming service could get rolled out in foreign markets or whether CBS content could be added to Viacom streaming services abroad. "The role has just been created, and I will work very closely with the folks at CBS, but the intent is always to utilize our global content as much as possible," he said.

"Pier is a uniquely dynamic executive and has an unrivaled track record of growing revenues for the entire VIMN ecosystem," said Lynn. "Pier’s vision and leadership in acquiring and integrating both Telefe and Porto dos Fundos for the Americas business was a step-change for Viacom in the region and enabled the creation of a studio business, not just for the Americas, but for all of Viacom International. Additionally, Pier’s leadership in the streaming and OTT space has driven subscriber growth and established VIMN as a key player in OTT in the region, partnering with [pay TV distributors] and mobile operators. I’m confident that Pier will apply the same vision and rigor to launching these key business lines for ViacomCBS internationally as we continue to super serve our distribution partners."

Juan "JC" Acosta, currently executive vp and COO of VIMN Americas, will take over Gazzolo's role as president of VIMN Americas, effective Jan. 3. He will also report Lynn. 

Discussing his vision for Viacom International Studios, Gazzolo told THR on Tuesday: "I believe that premium content continues to be very important, and people are expecting to watch high-quality content. The beauty about international is that we have production models that can show you high-quality content, but the cost is not necessarily going to be horrific as we have the ability to use our production hubs around the world and find more efficient ways. In Latin America, we have built about 900 hours of content."

One key strategy will be "to take local hits" and localize them for other markets. Dramedies, such as Telefe comedy 100 Days to Fall in Love, which has scored various local versions, including an English-language remake for Showtime, have been a focus in scripted fare for his team, but tastes and demand constantly evolve, he said.

Streaming services will also be tailored to regional needs, said Gazzolo. "From a content point of view, we will have global content and local content, so the content strategy is going to be very different in different markets depending on the appetite and the business models we have in those markets," he said.