ViacomCBS earnings: Q4, 2021 - Paramount+ failing to stand out despite deep content reserve from corporate parents

16 February, 2022

As ViacomCBS prepares to report its latest earnings, Parrot Analytics has found strong demand for the conglomerate’s overall catalog, rising demand for both original and on-platform content for Paramount+, but missed opportunities in leveraging its most beloved content for streaming dominance.

ViacomCBS’s wide range of properties produced several of the most in-demand new series of Q4 2021 with American audiences:

  • Showtime’s Yellowjackets (21x more in-demand than the average show in the US in Q4 2021) and Dexter: New Blood (14.2x) were the fifth and 13th most in-demand new shows that debuted in Q4 across all platforms.
  • Paramount+’s Mayor of Kingstown (19x) and Star Trek: Prodigy (12.5x) were the seventh and 14th most in-demand new series.
  • CBS’s CSI: Vegas (18.8x) and Ghosts (16.2x) were the eighth and tenth most in-demand new series.

ViacomCBS remains in a solid second place in corporate demand share (13.4%), far behind Disney (20.1%) but ahead of fellow legacy media brands WarnerMedia (11.9%) and NBCUniversal (10.8%) for the year 2021. However, Paramount+ was in seventh place in US originals demand share (4.2%) in 2021, and fifth place in US on-platform demand share (8.4%) as of Q4 2021.

If ViacomCBS wants to be a leading player in streaming, they must exclusively place this highly in-demand content catalog onto Paramount+. Demand for original and exclusively licensed content is a key leading indicator of subscriber growth for SVOD platforms. 

One thing that is clearly working for Paramount+ is the Star Trek franchise. Star Trek originals on Paramount+ accounted for 36.6% of the demand for Paramount+ Originals in 2021. By comparison, Marvel shows made up 38.6% of Disney+ Originals demand, and Star Wars series accounted for 30.1% of Disney+ Originals demand for the year 2021.

Paramount+ did have the highest average demand per original series of any of the major SVODs with US audiences in 2021. However, a ‘quality over quantity’ approach might not be a winning strategy in today’s media ecosystem where efforts to scale up trump everything else. 

Corporate Demand Shares  - United States, 2021
(Click here for more details on how we calculate Corporate Demand Share)

  • Corporate Demand Share assesses the long-term viability of the top media companies as they look to consolidate their original content’s availability exclusively onto their own platforms. 
  • For the full year 2021, ViacomCBS was in a solid second place in this category, with 13.4% share, well behind Disney (20.1%) but ahead of legacy media competitors WarnerMedia (11.9%) and NBCUniversal (10.8%).
  • The soon to be Warner Bros. Discovery (18.9%) would leapfrog ViacomCBS in corporate demand share and push it to a distant third, showing the immediate importance of building up demand for exclusive content on Paramount+ and Showtime.

On-Platform Demand Share - United States, Q4 2021

  • When considering demand for an SVOD’s full catalog - including digital originals and licensed content - Paramount+ held 8.4% share in the category for Q4 2021.
  • Likely helped by the new South Park episodes exclusively available on this platform, this was a decent increase over its share in Q3 2021 (8%).
  • Paramount+ closed the distance between it and Amazon Prime from 1.5 percentage points to 0.6 percentage points in just one quarter. 
  • Nevertheless, Paramount+ has less than half the demand share of leaders Hulu (20%) and Netflix (19.4%).
  • Pulling back top CBS shows from Netflix such as NCIS and Criminal Minds and making them exclusive to Paramount+ would help bridge this gap.

Digital Original Demand Share - United States, 2021

  • For digital original demand share, Paramount+ finished 2021 at 4.2% in the US, up 7.3% in demand share versus 2020 (3.9%).
  • This growth pales in comparison to the growth of HBO Max (+86.4% YoY), Disney+ (+49.7% YoY) and Apple TV+ (+38% YoY) in 2021. 
  • Paramount+ has successfully locked in Star Trek fans for the foreseeable future, but the service needs to expand beyond this audience to truly compete. 
  • Series in the ‘Sheridan Universe’ like 1883 and Mayor of Kingstown are a good start, and have brought a new audiences into Paramount+. Even better would be getting the exclusive streaming rights to Yellowstone back from NBCUniversal’s Peacock. 

Average Platform Original Demand - United States, 2021

  • What Paramount+ lacks in volume it makes up for in average demand per original.
  • Of eight leading streamers, Paramount+ had the highest average demand per original with American audiences in 2021. 
  • The average Paramount+ Original was 6.1x more demand than the average show in the US, well ahead of Disney+ (4.8x), Apple TV+ (4.3x) and HBO Max (4.1x).
  • This data suggests that Paramount+’s original content strategy could be more focused on quality over quantity.

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