Disney+ may be the reason that two Comedy Central scripted shows wound up moving to HBO Max.
When Disney launched its streamer in November, it did so with The Mandalorian — an original Star Wars series that paired well with the franchise’s original films on the service. Spinoffs of Marvel features also are in the works as Disney draws subscribers with new material that bolsters its prized assets. Now, CBS All Access is pulling a page from Disney’s playbook as ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish seeks to rebrand his nearly 6-year-old streamer in 2021 with fare from across the remerged company’s vast portfolio. Comedy Central will now be a home for topical series (The Daily Show), comedic feature films and adult animated franchises (Beavis and Butt-Head, Ren & Stimpy).
Linear originals of animated updates will be paired with their libraries in a few years on CBS All Access. ViacomCBS Entertainment & Youth Group president Chris McCarthy, sources say, plans to have new episodes of Beavis and Butt-Head on the air in third-quarter 2021, with new installments eventually joining the show’s original library, among others, as a CBS All Access exclusive. In the interim, sources say the strategy is to expose the company’s prized library content to as broad as an audience as possible on a nonexclusive basis.
That’s a key reason why ViacomCBS licensed its entire South Park library to HBO Max in a $500 million deal last year. Knowing that adult animation eventually would be pivotal to Comedy Central and All Access, the company saw HBO Max — with exclusive rights to juggernaut Friends — as a destination for scripted comedy and a way to better expose new viewers to South Park at a time when CBS All Access was best known as a home for Star Trek and procedurals. By the time the South Park deal expires in a few years, it will be the exclusive cornerstone to a deep library of new adult animation and their corresponding libraries on CBS All Access after their first-run episodes launch on Comedy Central. Those new originals will, in success, help draw subscribers, while the shows’ vast libraries will offer reason to stay. (ViacomCBS’ July 1 licensing deal with Peacock is part of the same strategy: Generate revenue, expose the content to a bigger audience and eventually bring it back home exclusively.)
Programs that don’t fit with ViacomCBS’ hand-in-hand linear and streaming strategy — The Other Two, South Side (which moved Aug. 13 to HBO Max) and Paramount Network-turned-Netflix’s Emily in Paris — will be licensed to third-party buyers, with the company’s studio arms retaining ownership (and generating revenue from licensing fees). The same strategy is happening across the company. The SpongeBob SquarePants movie eventually will stream on All Access, to be joined by spinoffs that first air on Nickelodeon.
The CSI revival, too, will remain in-house while David Stapf’s CBS TV Studios keeps selling content that doesn’t fit at the company to third-party buyers (i.e., the Clueless redo at Peacock). As Bakish noted in May, “We’re prioritizing franchise IP to our owned platforms. And regardless of what we do in the licensing space, remember, ultimately, these deals are rentals. The IP does revert.”
This story first appeared in the Aug. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.