ViacomCBS Exec on Keys to Paramount+ Launch, Global Success: "We Have Got a Really Strong Brand"

Kelly Day
Brooke Alexander / Studio Brooke

Kelly Day

The expanded streamer has "a very strong content offering at a value price point," says international COO Kelly Day.

ViacomCBS executives on Wednesday dug deeper into their plans for upcoming streaming service Paramount+ and the company’s broader streaming strategy.

The conglomerate had previously said that it would relaunch existing subscription streaming services under the new Paramount+ brand in the U.S. and in Latin America on March 4, followed by a March 25 debut in Scandinavia and a launch later in the year in Australia. It detailed on Wednesday that the Latin America launch would come in 18 countries. In Canada, the CBS All Access service will get the Paramount+ rebrand on March 4, with an "expanded" content offering available later in the year.

"With production capabilities across five continents, strong distribution agreements and local relationships and expertise around the world, Paramount+ will leverage ViacomCBS’ leading global reach – including the largest global broadcast footprint – to drive streaming growth and international expansion," the company said on Wednesday. "ViacomCBS Networks International will build on its momentum in prized formats, and as one of the top global producers of Spanish-language content, to bring exclusive series to market for fans of kids and family, scripted dramas, reality and more."

Premieres of such MTV franchises as Acapulco Shore and Are You The One?: Brazil in Latin America, as well as Story of Songs in the Nordics will be available on Paramount+ in Latin America, the Nordics and Australia. And through ViacomCBS International Studios, the service will in Latin America debut The Envoys, a supernatural thriller co-produced with Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter Juan José Campanella (The Secret in Their Eyes), and Cecilia, a dramedy from Argentine writer and director Daniel Burman that will star Mexican actress Mariana Treviño.

Among the speakers at the firm’s investor day on Wednesday was Kelly Day, who about a year ago was named COO of ViacomCBS Networks International after leaving her post as president of Viacom Digital Studios following the merger of Viacom and CBS. In October, she added the role of president of international streaming.

The executive is high on the company’s global opportunities in streaming and on the opportunities for its international operations to feed content to Paramount+ and beyond.

Ahead of the investor event, Day spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the company’s streaming strategy in foreign markets, how Paramount+ there will differ from its U.S. version and the sheer size of the international opportunity.

Streaming is a key focus for ViacomCBS now, just like for many of its entertainment peers. How do you think about the international opportunity in streaming overall and how do you decide whether to focus on your subscription service Paramount+ or your advertising VOD service Pluto TV?

I moved over to the international side of the business about a year ago. And I made the move, because it's a super exciting space. If you look at the opportunity outside the U.S., it is absolutely huge. And that's not to say that the opportunity in the U.S. isn't still very significant as well. But when you look at the international landscape, it's just very early days, both for the SVOD side of the business, but also for Pluto TV. Most of the world lives outside of the U.S. So as a practical matter there's just a really big market opportunity.

I think our approach to that has been unique. And we are really looking at markets on a case-by-case basis and developing bespoke [strategies] that take advantage of a couple of key assets that ViacomCBS brings to the table. We [evaluate] if in a market we think an SVOD strategy is likely to take hold and we can be competitive and think the opportunity to go into the market is significant. Or if a market is better suited to AVOD, perhaps a market that has a lot of scale and a healthy ad market. In some cases, like Latin America, we see both. So Latin America has been a big focus for us. We have a kind of Paramount+ light version in Latin America that has done well, but then we also launched Pluto there last year, and it has just been off the charts. It took off much faster than we even anticipated.

What has helped with the success in Latin America and how much upside is there with the upcoming launch of the beefed up Paramount+ on March 4?

As we think about the opportunity for Paramount+ in Latin America, I think it comes down to a couple of things. One, we do have a really strong content offering. So if you look at what we're bringing to the market, we have got the best of Showtime, we have got the best of the Paramount+ originals in the works in the U.S., we have got a great slate of movies, we have got a lot of local content. So we really have all of the pieces in terms of having a very robust content catalog, and we should end up with about 5,000 hours at launch in Latin America. So it's pretty deep and broad. The content is premium.

Some people have asked how strong the Paramount brand is in international markets…

We have got a really strong brand. And that's something that there has been some conversation about it in the U.S. coverage, but I think there is not enough attention on the fact that the Paramount+ brand is so incredibly strong amongst consumers. We did a ton of research last summer, when we were making the decision on the brand, on all of the biggest markets around the world. And what we found was so remarkable that it was kind of "wow."

Which is 91 percent of people in markets everywhere, non-English-speaking markets all over the world, knew the Paramount brand and recognized the mountain and the logo. But 96 percent had a really positive association with it. And when you ask people what do you associate with the Paramount brand, they mentioned things like big blockbuster movies, awesome TV shows. They just have a perception in their heads that this is going to be very premium and a brand that they know is going to bring high-quality content. That gave us a lot of confidence in the brand as really a global brand, like a halo that we can get behind and roll out to many different markets.

Let's talk about the pricing of Paramount+ abroad. [The company disclosed that monthly prices include 79 Mexican pesos ($3.85), 19.90 Brazilian real ($3.66), 299 Argentinian pesos ($3.34), 69 Swedish krona ($8.30), 69 Norwegian krona ($8.15), 59 Danish krona ($9.63), and 6.99 Euro ($8.48) in Finland.] How did you decide about the cost of the service in international markets and how does it compare with rivals?

I think that is the second piece. You look at the content offering and the brand. Then you say, okay, what's the price point? Obviously, it is a competitive space. And all of these markets are competitive; everybody is moving into them. So Latin America, the Nordics, Australia are no different. We feel like what we are delivering to consumers is a very strong content offering at a value price point. And that is not to say that it is cheap, but it is a value price point. We think that that matters to consumers. And in some markets, it matters more than others. We know that in Latin America in order to be successful and in order to grow our consumer base, we have to have a price point that is really competitive.

So we are going to be priced, in most markets, fairly considerably lower than other streaming services in the market. I think there is going to be this perception of you have got a super-strong brand, really robust content catalog, and I can get it at a price point that I feel pretty good about. At launch, we felt like the best strategy was to go out of the gate with a price that essentially you can't say no to.

What else is key to your international streaming strategy and success?

The last piece is distribution. In streaming, in general, having really strong distribution is critically important. You have got to make sure that your app is in front of consumers on all the platforms that they are accessing it. And they have a lot of choice right now, whether it be connected TVs, the big platform partners like Apple, Google etc. And that is where I think ViacomCBS does have a unique position in the market. We already have fantastic relationships with Apple, Amazon, and Google, so we will be available on all of those platforms at launch. But where you get kind of a secret sauce, and where we can really get that incremental scale, is that we have very strong relationships with all of the multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) partners. For example, in Latin America, we have over 50 MVPD relationships, and so we are going to be everywhere, we are going to be ubiquitous.

Could it make sense in certain markets to offer Paramount+ exclusively to one big distributor?

I wouldn't rule it out. But I do think that it depends on how you define exclusive. We have strategic partners in many markets, and there may be an opportunity to create some kind of exclusive experience. But I think that, broadly speaking, we want to have the Paramount+ service available as broadly as we can.

Will your distribution deals keep Paramount+ a direct-to-consumer service or will some relationships have business-to-business elements?

We have a mix of offerings depending on the market and depending on the operator. And so we certainly have our traditional direct-to-consumer offering available through our iOS and Android apps and web and mobile and all of those things. We will also have a B2B2C relationship with some of the MVPDs. And in certain cases, we even have more of a B2B relationship where, if it is a legacy box, or if the platform is set up in such a way where we essentially have to deliver content into a sort of app, then we are happy to do that as well. An example of that would be in Russia, where we have a relationship with a streaming platform called Okko where you can actually buy Paramount+ through their bundle or you can buy it individually. And so it is available both ways. We want to be as flexible as possible working with our partners and making sure that we are reaching as many consumers as possible.

ViacomCBS has set dates for Paramount+ launches in the U.S. and Latin America in early March, followed by the Nordics and then Australia. No mention has been made ahead of the investor event for other markets in Europe and Asia though. Are you planning launches there and does the timing depend on whether you have enough content rights in a market or how Pluto is doing there?

We do have additional markets coming soon. It is absolutely our plan to have Paramount+ available very broadly in almost every major market. There are a lot of considerations as to how and when we enter a market, whether it be having the right content, having the right partnerships. There is a whole variety of factors. We definitely see Western Europe as a big opportunity, but also Central and Eastern Europe. There will be more information coming on that over the next couple of months as we continue to finalize our plans.

With regard to Pluto, we have seen great strength, including in the U.K., Germany, Spain, France, and we are planning to launch Italy later this year. I don't really consider it an either or, we don't need to do one before the other or something like that.

When we look at the content offering, how different will Paramount+ in the U.S. be from international markets?

The content proposition is a little bit different outside the U.S. than it is in the U.S. In the U.S., of course, you have live sports and news and a mountain of entertainment. Outside the U.S., we are a little bit more focused on the mountain of entertainment. We will have a live feed available in Canada, where we currently have the CBS News feed. We will continue with that, and we are looking at live feeds in other markets, but won’t launch them out of the gate. We are much more focused on being a big premium general entertainment package outside the U.S. Within that, we are very well coordinated with the U.S. But we also have the Showtime content in the Paramount+ product outside the U.S.

We work really, really closely with both the Paramount+ originals team and the Showtime team as they are developing and greenlighting content to make sure that we have great titles that are available globally. And that is something that I think over time you are going to see us do more and more global releases of some of the big franchises. But all of the big series that you would typically expect to see from Paramount+ or from Showtime, you are going to see in most of the markets, although there are always a few titles here and there where maybe there is a rights issue in this market or that market. But for the most part, we are trying to make most of those titles available. So, you are going to see Ray Donovan and Dexter and those big series that people love from Showtime. And then the same goes for the Paramount+ originals like The Man Who Fell to Earth, which we are pretty excited about, and Lioness from Taylor Sheridan. And then we will have a really robust kids offering.

How key is that kids content from Nickelodeon etc. for the success of Paramount+ globally?

In the grand scheme of Paramount+, people obviously tend to focus on the big scripted dramas and for good reason. But the kids content is really important to the product offering because that is really the family piece of it. So the parents may subscribe to get access to one of the big, scripted dramas, but people tend to stick with it if the kids want to keep watching. And I think that the offering from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. is really strong. So we are going to have a ton of hours and a ton of episodes from Nickelodeon in all the markets, which is great. We are also going to be premiering Kamp Koral, which is of course the new SpongeBob SquarePants spin-off. And all of the big all kids shows - SpongeBob, Paw Patrol, Dora the Explorer - is going to be there. And we think that the kids piece of it is a critical retention tool.

How important is rolling out original fare regularly, and will we over time see originals from the international side that Paramount+ will either launch in select markets or globally?

It is an area that we are spending a lot of time on right now. We launched ViacomCBS International Studios a few years ago. That has really grown into a very robust business, led by JC Acosta. He is super-focused on developing new original series for Paramount+. I can't announce anything officially uet, but I can tell you with great certainty that you will see things developed from ViacomCBS International Studios, available globally. That is a big priority for us to not only take those big U.S. franchises and distribute them everywhere. We also know that audiences all over the world love a lot of the local dramas and local content as well. We have a presence for this in pretty much every major market around the world, and we definitely see that content traveling far and wide.

ViacomCBS owns such big broadcast networks as Telefe in Argentina, Network 10 in Australia and Channel 5 in the U.K. How much will Paramount+ be promoted on these and the company's other networks and assets in international markets?

You will certainly see Paramount+ on our linear networks, you are going see it on our social feeds, you are going to see it integrated into our shows. In Argentina, where they are a little bit more liberal, you may even see things popping up in the news broadcasts. You are going to see Paramount+ everywhere in Latin America on March 4. It is going to be out of home, on air and digital. We are really putting the full weight of ViacomCBS behind it.

How do you think about competition in international markets from other streamers, such as Netflix and Disney+, and other media?

Our job is to cut through the noise, whether it be people browsing social media on their phones, or subscribing to other services, or watching linear TV, whatever it is. And our job is to make sure that we offer the best possible content experience that keeps bringing people in and keeps people on the service. We have certainly looked at the competitive space in all of these markets and we have a pretty good sense for how our brand and our content offering and our price point match with the competition. We feel like we are going in in a really strong, a very competitive position, and we expect to capture real share.

And how do you feel about launching amid the coronavirus pandemic?

Television consumption is through the roof right now because that is all we have to do. So, in some ways, it is kind of the best time to launch something like this because we have a really captive audience.