Paramount CFO on BET sale reports: 'Always looking' to unlock value for shareholders
Paramount (PARA) CFO Naveen Chopra weighed in on recent reports around a potential sale of the company's BET Media Group. While, of course, not officially weighing in on the matter.
"There's been speculation around BET. We don't comment on M&A speculation. ...But I will say that, in general, we are always looking at different ways to create value for our shareholders," Chopra said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday.
"To the extent that there are ways to do that — by buying assets, by selling assets, by restructuring assets — we look at all of those very carefully," he said.
According to The Wall Street Journal, actor and producer Tyler Perry has expressed interest in purchasing a majority stake in BET Media Group, which includes cable channels BET and VH1.
Perry, who has a current show deal with Paramount, is already a minority stakeholder in streaming service BET+.
A potential BET sale would aid Paramount's larger efforts to boost its flagship Paramount+ streaming service as well as its free, ad-supported platform Pluto TV, the Journal noted.
Paramount, which recently announced it will be merging its Paramount+ and Showtime streaming services into one offering dubbed "Paramount+ with Showtime," has eyed greater integration between its cable television and streaming offerings amid escalating cord cutting trends and direct-to-consumer losses.
In its most recent quarter, the company reported a direct-to-consumer loss of roughly $1.82 billion in 2022 — slightly above previous guidance of $1.8 billion.
"We're focused on the path to profitability, which has always been part of the evolution that we knew we had to execute against," Chopra told Yahoo Finance Live. "We have said for quite some time that 2023 will be the year of peak investment in streaming for Paramount."
Paramount+ added nearly 10 million subscribers in the fourth quarter to reach a total of almost 56 million. The company has leaned on franchises with spinoffs for popular series like "Yellowstone," "Dexter" and "Billions" currently in the works amid the Showtime/Paramount+ rebrand.
"We're big believers in franchises," Chopra said. "The content that we have had a lot of success with on Paramount+ [is] a lot of franchise content."
As the company looks toward profitability, Paramount recently announced price hikes will hit the streaming giant in the third quarter of 2023 with its premium Paramount+ tier jumping to $11.99, up from the previous $9.99. The essential Paramount+ tier with ads will rise by just $1 to $5.99.
"We think streaming still offers tremendous value for consumers relative to what they were paying five or six years ago for entertainment," Chopra said, defending the company's price increase announcement.
"The appetite for great content has not changed at all. In fact, that's only continued to grow. And even today, when you subscribe to five or six different streaming services, you're still probably paying less than you were not that long ago for the traditional cable bundle. We think there's a lot of legs in it."
Alexandra Canal is a Senior Entertainment and Media Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 and email her at email@example.com
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