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Paramount Global shuts down cable network websites

In a cost-cutting move, Paramount Global announced they were shutting down the MTV News website. The announcement was soon followed by Paramount’s decision to shut down the websites of cable properties; CMT, Comedy Central, TV Land and Paramount Network removing all online content. According to several reports, users attempting to access the websites were instructed to access or subscribe to the company’s SVOD service Paramount+.

In a statement, Paramount said, “As part of broader website changes across Paramount, we have introduced more streamlined versions of our sites, driving fans to Paramount+ to watch their favorite show.” Paramount also mentioned content for their cable networks are available via your TV provider.

At the end of first quarter 2024, Paramount+, which was launched in 2021, had 71 million global subscribers, a quarterly increase of 3.7 million. Despite the steady increase, the streaming unit has yet to become profitable. In first quarter 2024 Paramount’s streaming unit lost $286 million. On a positive note, the losses have subsided. In first quarter 2023 Paramount’s direct-to-consumer division reported a loss of $511 million. According to Nielsen’s Gauge Report for May, Paramount+ had a TV audience share of 1.2%, below rival streamers; YouTube, Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, Tubi and Roku and comparable to Max and Peacock.

Paramount Global recently announced a rate increase for Paramount+. The cost of Paramount+ with Showtime will increase $1 to $12 .99 monthly. The monthly cost for Paramount+ with ads also increased $1 to $7.99. The cost of the Paramount+ Essential plan will increase $2 to $7.99 monthly for new subscribers. Paramount expects their streaming unit to be profitable by the end of next year. The cost increases will take effect later this year.

The closing of the MTV News website comes more than one year after Paramount, amid layoffs, shut down the MTV News division. MTV News was launched in 1987 with Kurt Loder as the program’s host. At first, MTV News was a weekly program on the cable network before airing nightly. The MTV News website was launched in 1996, hence, decades of pop culture news, interviews and other features are suddenly no longer available.

The decision comes at a time when the average audience of cable networks are in a freefall, hampered by the acceleration of cord-cutting and cutbacks in program budgets. In May 2024, MTV averaged 154,000 primetime viewers a fraction of the audience the cable network generated during its heyday.

The sudden closing of the MTV News website and the thousands of documents stored in its archives was not well received. According to Deadline, Michael Alex, who had participated in the launch of the website, posted on Facebook, “It’s a huge loss and a waste of something extremely valuable to anyone who cares about the history of great music.” Lew Nuzzie posted on Facebook, “MTV.com is gone. Kaput. Wiped off the face of the Earth. It’s as if MTV never existed. There’s no precedent for this, and no valid reason. Just cheapness and stupidity.” In addition, persons who work on the website were not given any warning of Paramount’s decision.

Comedy Central’s website, another pop culture source was shut down. The website had provided access to 25 years of content from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as well as clips from South Park among programs. Also, the CMT website which had stored years of archival information on the country music industry was also impacted.

There had been widespread reports that Paramount Global had been engaged in merger negotiations with Skydance Media, a movie production company with a deal reportedly imminent. On June 11, however, National Amusements, which has a majority voting stake in Paramount Global, suddenly announced that the negotiations had been terminated. The announement followed another surprise, when, in late April, amid the ongoing negotiations with Skydance Media, Bob Bakish stepped down as President and CEO of Paramount Global. Bakish had held that position since 2019. Bakish, who was replaced by a threesome of Paramount Global executives; George Cheeks, Chris McCarthy and Brian Robbins.

Similar to several other traditional media companies, Paramount Global is debt-ridden as profits are declining. As of late June, Paramount Global had a market cap of about $7 billion, a year-over-decline of about 35%. At the end of first quarter 2024, the debt load of Paramount Global had been $15.8 billion. There are reports Paramount is looking to reduce costs by as much as $500 million which could also result in more layoffs. Forbes

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