Believe it or not ViacomCBS is probably not done building out streaming services. CNBC reported today that the company might be looking to put together the assets of CBS All-Access, Viacom and Paramount Pictures and even Pluto TV into one streaming service. The report does not say whether the service would be free but without indicating a price for the service the story goes on to say that an expected premium version of the service would include Showtime.
The information, which came from unnamed sources, indicates that ViacomCBS wants to flex its muscles and show of its new toys as the entire entertainment industry starts to chart a path built around streaming/direct to consumer instead of relying only on the traditional bundle.
Don’t expect CBS to disband its broadcast channel anytime soon, in fact as we move closer to ATSC 3.0 you should expect to see the broadcast side of CBS’s business start to grow in plenty of exciting ways like interactive NFL and NCAA broadcasts. A very interesting note is the multiple ways that the service could be accessed. It is reported that there could be an add-free version and a version that includes showtime. This means that there would supposedly be at least three different versions of the service. What if only 2 of them are paid?
Here is what we think is going to happen. While many will immediately begin to compare this product to the Comcast service, Peacock, which of course has still not seen the light of day, we think that it will be more along the lines of Pluto TV. In fact it would not be the slightest bit surprising if it was built on an improved version of Pluto TV and simply rebranded. Why do we say that? Because the basic description of the service describes Pluto TV. It is a streaming service that provides live content, on-demand content, content from Viacom properties and CBS. It does not have live feeds of CBS sports or local affiliates but now that it is all one big happy family it may well in the future. If it is built on top of CBS All-Access it would not be at all out of the realm of possibility. Pluto TV has 20 million viewers a month and is even going international as of recent reporting. Why not use Pluto TV as a way to offer up different camera angles in the same way ESPN has the multiple ways to watch major events. Basically if there is a free service that people just invite right in and grow to love then it becomes a much easier ask for them to pay a little to see a lot more.
Pluto TV recently began airing episodes of CBS All Access tent pole Picard. This would have been unthinkable when the service was essentially a curated group of YouTube feeds yet it happened just last week. What’s to say that CBS might not want to package up other properties, especially older ones that have not been used effectively over the past 20 years. why not a Brady Bunch channel? It can not be ignored that CNBC reported that Pluto TV CEO Tom Ryan is one of the executives who have spearheaded the effort to put together the service.
We have long viewed Pluto TV as ViacomCBS’s not so secret weapon. It does not have to offer every single thing CBS and Viacom own in order to be successful and popular. If the platform were used to provide say a marathon of Star Trek Discovery before the new season launches on its more premium service it could do a lot to get more people to pay to see more. CBS probably does not want the show to be remembered as the least watched Star Trek Show ever. A combined streaming service could offer any original content from CBS All-Access that is 2 years old or more. Now that the service has been out since 2014 that’s a pretty solid content lineup, and there are millions out there who not only have not seen it, may not even know that they want to. What is to stop CBS from deciding that once its contracts with Hulu for CBS content run out it is just going to put all of its shows on the freemium network in the same way that CW yanked the Arrowverse right off Hulu when it launched the add-supported CW app? Why not build in a channel just to advertise CBS All Access?
This is a company looking for a new approach and it knows from both Pluto TV and its part ownership of the CW that people will tune in, watch commercials and say thank you. And some will consider paying more to skip them. This service is not going to be built on All Access. It is going to replace it.