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SkyShowtime accelerates ViacomCBS’ streaming push into Eastern Europe, says CEO

While launching Paramount+ was the company’s streaming priority in 2021, ViacomCBS Inc. will focus more attention on international growth next year, including an expedited push into Eastern Europe.

ViacomCBS President and CEO Bob Bakish told investors at a conference on Dec. 7 that the company will leverage its on-the-ground resources in 2022, building on the company’s existing international infrastructure.

International opportunities

In 2022, ViacomCBS is aiming to bolster its European streaming footing through two primary plays.

The first is SkyShowtime, the 50-50 joint venture with Comcast Corp.’s Sky Ltd., which will target some 90 million broadband homes, including residents in a number of Eastern European markets. Bakish said the venture accelerates the company’s streaming presence in those areas because it had no plans to launch therein for at least two years.

In addition to bringing that time frame forward, the venture allows the company to penetrate those areas on a more cost-effective basis. Moreover, Bakish said the combined content offerings from both sides will benefit SkyShowtime overall.

The second gambit is a commercial partnership with Sky that will launch Paramount+ to Sky Cinema customers in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

Bakish said the partnership represents “a compelling way to accelerate our penetration while preserving 100% ownership of our streaming business.” He also said the deal affords attractive characteristics from customer-acquisition and churn perspectives.

Asked about international competition next year, Bakish said, “If you look at the data on the number of subscriptions per consumer, that number continues to go up. So it’s not a zero-sum game. There is market share for multiple parties out there.”

Profitable Pluto
Back in the U.S., Bakish reiterated previous proclamations that Pluto TV will cross the $1 billion revenue mark in 2021, but he noted Dec. 7 the free ad-supported streaming platform is already operating in the black domestically. “We’ve been running it for growth and it’s at margins approaching broadcast,” he said. “So this business clearly has the opportunity to create incremental bottom line value.”

To date, Bakish said the company has been concentrating more on sell-through than pricing, which has “a lot of room to run.”

At the close of the third quarter, ViacomCBS reported that Pluto TV had 54 million global monthly active users. At the conference, Bakish reaffirmed earlier remarks that adds will accelerate in the final reporting period of 2021.

As to Paramount+’s continued growth, ViacomCBS reported that the week of Nov. 8 marked the service’s most successful period to date, with the addition of 1 million new subscribers and a record total sign-ups since the rebrand from CBS All Access on March 5.

Bakish, at the conference, said November marked its best month relative to consumption and subscriber additions, and the fourth-quarter acceleration the company predicted on its third-quarter earnings will be even greater than expected, although he did not provide specifics. The company added 4.3 million subscribers in the third quarter.

Bakish said total streaming revenue will cross an annual run rate of $5 billion during the fourth quarter.

Content connections
Paramount+ benefited from its breadth of offerings, with the executive highlighting “Clifford the Big Red Dog” as its most-watched exclusive film, as well as a record first-day bow for a series/movie on the service with the “South Park: Post COVID.”

Showtime also enjoyed its best month in terms of sign-ups and consumption, according to Bakish. The premiere night of serial killer series reboot “Dexter: New Blood” tallied the most sign-ups for the over-the-top service. The “Dexter” redux ranks as premium television’s new series of the year and is the most-watched drama ever on Showtime.

“Yellowjackets,” interspersing the backstory of a high school girls’ soccer team involved in a plane crash and the survivors’ grown-up existences, has become Showtime’s second-biggest OTT series. SP Global

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