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Comcast and ViacomCBS unite to take on Netflix in European streaming

Comcast and ViacomCBS have joined forces to take on Netflix and other streaming services in several European countries, with plans to launch a new video on-demand platform on the continent.

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The subscription service, to be named SkyShowtime, will unite content from the US companies’ brands including Paramount, Universal and Nickelodeon. Its rollout is the latest sign of how global media groups are rushing to meet booming demand for streamed video content, a trend that has been accelerated by successive lockdowns and the closure of cinemas during the pandemic.

The joint venture, designed to be more cost effective than both companies going it alone, is also further evidence that rivals are collaborating as they challenge Netflix, Disney and Amazon’s Prime Video. Earlier this year, AT&T agreed to spin off and combine WarnerMedia with rival Discovery in a multibillion-dollar deal.

SkyShowtime involves an equal investment, of an undisclosed size, from ViacomCBS and Comcast, and would be controlled jointly, the companies said on Wednesday.

It is due to be launched next year, subject to regulatory approval, and should ultimately be available in 22 countries including Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, as well as in Nordic markets and much of central and eastern Europe.

Dana Strong, Sky’s chief executive, said it was a “milestone moment” for Sky. As a result of the launch, the brand will be present in 28 countries in Europe.

Comcast, which agreed to buy Sky in 2018, is using the company to expand in Europe. It is introducing NBCUniversal’s Peacock content on Sky’s services throughout the continent.

Julian Aquilina, TV specialist at Enders Analysis, said it also showed how Sky, which has traditionally focused on sport, was pivoting its strategy to becoming an “aggregator”, offering viewers content from a range of sources.

Raffaele Annecchino, chief executive of ViacomCBS Networks International, said the service was “a huge opportunity to accelerate our market expansion” in Europe.

The latest tie-up with Comcast follows a deal that ViacomCBS announced this month to distribute its Paramount+ streaming service, which launched in the US, through Sky in the UK, Italy, and Germany.

Subscription pricing for customers has yet to be announced. Series and films to be offered to viewers have also yet to be confirmed, although Strong promised a “truly compelling line-up” of content.

The roster will include productions from Showtime, whose series include Dexter and Twin Peaks, and Sky Studios, which is behind Chernobyl and Gangs of London. The companies said the content would span genres, including drama, documentaries and children’s programming, as well as local content. Financial Times

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