ViacomCBS Will Aim to Be a Content Arms Dealer to Major Platforms

DAVID NEVINS - Getty - H 2018
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"We really believe in not only serving inside our own ecosystem but serving people outside," CBS chief creative officer David Nevins told analysts on Thursday.

CBS chief creative officer David Nevins made it clear Thursday that CBS, and a merged ViacomCBS, will be an arms dealer to the highest bidders while not hoarding content for their own streaming services.

"There's a lot of hungry mouths to feed," Nevins told analysts at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2019 Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference in Beverly Hills. "We really believe in not only serving inside our own ecosystem but serving people outside. ... A lot of important suppliers are pulling back from demand."

Presumably, Nevins, who is also CEO of Showtime, was primarily referencing Disney, which has been steadily taking content back from Netflix as it prepares to launch Disney+ on Nov. 12.

Executives said Aug. 13 that ViacomCBS would be formed by the two companies controlled by Shari and Sumner Redstone, and Nevins said the merger was "a long time coming. ... These are great content factories that will supply both our own platforms and other people's as well."

He used Diary of a Female President as an example, as he deemed that CBS, Showtime, The CW and CBS All Access were not good fits for the show from executive producer Gina Rodriguez, so CBS Television Studios instead sold it to Disney+.

Nevins also seemingly took shots at Apple, which is getting into the content-creation and streaming business with Apple TV+; at AT&T, the phone company that now controls WarnerMedia; and at Amazon, which operates a Netflix-like service called Prime Video.

"Our advantage is we're a pure-play content company. We're not trying to drive the telephony or a hardware business, or a retail business. Our game is to maximize the value and the revenue we can generate out of our content, be that on our platforms or others," he said.

Nevins also said that, with all of the newcomers in streaming, "there's going to be a lot of rebundling going on," presumably a reference to the way cable has been bundling channels for decades. "Because we're largely platform agnostic, there's flexibility for us to partner ... to be in bundles that other people don't want to be in. ... There's going to be lots of interesting possibilities for bundling and distribution as these mega-platforms evolve over time. ... That's one of the big drivers of the recombination of CBS and Viacom."

The executive also told the Wall Street analysts that CBS "is in a constant state of cost-cutting. ... We don't tend to operate a fat organization." 

And he promised talent: "You create a hit show for us, you're going to get backend. That's been an important differentiator," whereas Netflix tends pay lots of money upfront.