ViacomCBS reported its earnings this week and perhaps the most headline friendly news was that the media conglomerate is rebranding as Paramount, a move that both acknowledges the history and name recognition of the brand, but also emphasizes the importance of streaming to the company’s future.
We’ve measured strong demand for the conglomerate’s overall catalog, rising demand for both original and on-platform content for Paramount+, but also missed opportunities to leverage its most beloved content for streaming dominance. With the company’s streaming ambitions in mind, here we look at where the company currently stands and what it will take to level up its streaming game.
ViacomCBS is a content powerhouse
In the US its corporate share of demand is behind only Disney. 13.4% of demand for all series in the US in 2021 was for a show that originally premiered on a ViacomCBS property. This puts it ahead of fellow legacy media brands WarnerMedia (11.9%) and NBCUniversal (10.8%) for the year. It also puts it well ahead of Netflix, which is nowhere near the top of the ranking when considering the entire universe of owned content. (Notably, ViacomCBS licenses out some of its longest running series including Criminal Minds, NCIS, and Supernatural to Netflix on a non-exclusive basis.)
This strength has not translated to streaming success…yet
While ViacomCBS has a massive arsenal of content at its disposal, its flagship streaming service, Paramount+, lags behind rivals. When considering demand for all content available on-platform, Paramount+ comes in slightly ahead of Peacock and just behind Amazon Prime Video. It is also well behind the leaders in this measure - Hulu and Netflix.
Looking at the ten most in-demand shows on Paramount+ in January, what stands out is what is missing. In particular, South Park and Yellowstone would all have been among the ten most in-demand shows on Paramount+ if ViacomCBS had made them available there instead of licensing them out. Paramount+ has tried to capture a slice of these shows' demand despite them not actually being available. South Park special episodes and the Yellowstone spinoff, 1883, are available to stream on Paramount+, but these only amount to a fraction of the attention of the original series. While selling this content to competitors obviously has immediate financial benefits, bolstering the catalogs of rivals is not moving Paramount+ any closer to the front of the pack.
Paramount+ Originals: Quality over quantity or too little too late?
Paramount+ (and CBS All Access in its earlier incarnation) has been battling it out in the streaming wars for longer than most at this point. However in terms of demand for its original content, it is still one of the smallest players. In Q4, only 4.4% of demand in the US for digital original series was for a Paramount+ series.
In fairness to Paramount+, this is not due to the quality of its shows. Looking at the average demand for these platforms’ original series, Paramount+ comes out on top, ahead of even Disney+ which has been churning out mega-hits all year. The average demand for Paramount+ originals is boosted by a variety of high quality programming whether perennially popular Star Trek series or popular new hits like Mayor of Kingstown.
To enter the next stage of growth, more original content is needed to draw subscribers in. While upping the number of original productions will likely lower the average demand for its originals, new shows that target different audiences will give more people a reason to sign up to Paramount+.
ViacomCBS (now Paramount) has all the ingredients to become a heavyweight in the streaming wars. It has proven that it can make highly in-demand original content for Paramount+ that has the power to draw subscribers in. It is also sitting on extensive content reserves. The next steps to streaming dominance for the company are twofold - scale the production of Paramount+ originals to drive subscriptions and reclaim the rights to its most in-demand licensed content to make the platform essential for subscribers and thereby retain them.