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ViacomCBS’s “Multi-Pronged” Approach Will See More Third Party Content Deals As Well As In-House Moves As Merged Company Drives Down Both Lanes

Peter White

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ViacomCBS will continue to strike major content deals with third parties as well as keeping some content in-house as the streaming wars heat up.

CEO Bob Bakish revealed its “multi-pronged” approach when asked whether the company should “pick a lane” on Viacom’s last investor call as a standalone company.

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This comes after a number of major streaming deals across the spectrum for both Viacom and CBS. Earlier today, Paramount licensed the rights to a Beverly Hills Cop sequel to Netflix and the SVOD service also struck a multi-year licensing deal with Nickelodeon for kids content including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, while HBO acquired the streaming rights to South Park.

On the other hand, earlier this week CBS CEO Joe Ianniello noted the addition of children’s programming to CBS All Access.

Bakish said that having a multi-part approach allowed it “unlock a range of opportunities in the shifting media landscape”.

“At Viacom and soon to be ViacomCBS, we have a tremendous library of IP and very significant production capacity across genres and formats on a global basis. That means we have the ability to support our own platforms with compelling original content and supply third parties. We can do both at scale,” he said.

When asked whether it would make more sense to “pick a lane”, in terms of keeping its own content in-house or selling it to third parties, Bakish sounded keen to continue to do both.

“Demand for content from third parties is incredible. The combination of our assets and capabilities, makes this sector an enormous opportunity for CBS. We have a deep library and extensive production capabilities. We have 750 series ordered to or in production, not to mention a library of over 140,000 television episodes and 3600 films. I strongly believe this level of volume is sufficient to supply our needs and third parties, so why not access the revenue, income and cash flow in deals. The upcoming merger with CBS… will only enhance our ability to extract value from that sector of the market,” he added.

Elsewhere, Bakish talked up Paramount’s recent film and TV activities. He admitted that Gemini Man and Terminator: Dark Fate “didn’t perform as we’d hoped” but said its exposure was “limited”. He highlighted forthcoming releases including A Quiet Place 2 in March, a new Spongebob Squarepants movie in May and the Top Gun sequel in June as well as Paramount TV series including 13 Reasons Why, Jack Ryan, Catch-22 and Looking For Alaska. “We’re just getting going,” he added.

Bakish also talked up its chances to keep the NFL on its air under the combined company. The NFL rights deal is understood to run through to the end of the 2022 season. Bakish said that he expects to continue its “long-standing” relationship with the league in future. He added that having Viacom’s younger skewing networks on board, as well as Viacom-owned international channels such as Channel 5 and Telefe, should help the combined company keep the rights.

“When you think about an NFL renewal, from my conversations with the league, the NFL values broadcast reach, they have a mass market brand and want to continue to have that,” he said. In terms of Viacom… we have younger audiences, whether it’s through on demand or linear feeds, we serve significantly younger audiences than CBS. They need to bring in a young audience. Internationally, clearly Viacom has one of the strongest international portfolios… if you’re developing a brand long-term… the NFL is important to us, we bring more to the table on a combined basis and they’re going to want a bigger cheque but I’m confident we’ll have a partnership for a long time to come.”

Bakish’s comment came after Viacom reported fourth-quarter profit of 79 cents a share that beat Wall Street forecasts and Paramount Pictures returned to full-year profitability, though revenue slipped 1% to barely undershoot estimates. Revenue came in at $3.4 billion for the quarter, down from $3.5 billion in the year-earlier quarter. Earnings of 79 cents declined from 99 cents in the prior-year period, but the exceeding of estimates and other positive signs in the report sent Viacom shares up 4% in pre-market trading.

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