ViacomCBS CEO Touts Star Trek For Streaming Growth And “Proof Of Concept” For Paramount+

Today ViacomCBS reported earnings for the third quarter of the year, topping market expectations. And during an investors conference call, CEO Bob Bakish talked about how streaming fueled the growth and leading towards a new focus for the media company moving forward. He specifically talked about how Star Trek has been and will be a part ViacomCBS streaming, including the upcoming rebranding of CBS All Access as Paramount+.

Star Trek helping fuel growth for ViacomCBS

Last year CBS raised their end of 2020 target to 18 million subscribers across their subscription streaming services (CBS All Access and Showtime combined). During today’s call, Baksih revealed they are ahead of schedule on that goal, and mentioned how Star Trek helped fuel this quarter’s growth:

We ended the quarter with 17.9 million domestic subscribers, up 72% year-on-year, which basically puts us just under the year-end [target]… And both, CBS All Access and Showtime [streaming], each had robust consumption growth in signups. Starting with All Access, the service benefited from strong demand for sports, like UEFA and the NFL, originals like Star Trek: Lower Decks, and CBS network content like Big Brother and Love Island, as well as from the 3,500 library episodes added from Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, MTV and Smithsonian. Plus, the almost 200 films from Paramount that we added in late July, as part of our preview launch. CBS All Access is now in the early stages of benefiting from the power of the combined company.

Bakish also talked up their free streaming service Pluto which is now benefiting from the Viacom/CBS merger, including the launch of a Star Trek channel in July:

Pluto TV continues to build on its position as the number one FAST, free ad-supported streaming television service in the United States. In the quarter, Pluto TV’s domestic [monthly users] grew 57% to 28.4 million, and globally grew to nearly 36 million… In fact, in the U.S., Pluto now has well over 100,000 hours of compelling content available to consumers. We recently added nine ViacomCBS channels, including Star Trek, Bellator, CBSN, Dallas, and CSI.

The official earnings release also used Star Trek branding to show the growth of streaming.

(ViacomCBS)

Star Trek is “working well” for All Access (soon to be Paramount+)

During the call, ViacomCBS CFO Naveen Choopra said the media company expects “to support this momentum by increasing our investments in streaming.” And Bob Bakish made clear that the plan to rebrand and relaunch All Access is on track:

[Paramount+] is on track to debut in early 2021. As you know, Paramount+ will combine live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment, including exclusive original content, plus a diverse and deep library of shows and movies, spanning all programming genres from ViacomCBS’ leading brands in one unified service… As we get into ‘21, we see substantial incremental growth ahead. Our preview launch at the end of July served as a proof-of-concept, and that gives us the confidence to lean into streaming even more. We’re executing a plan which will bring more content, more marketing and more distribution to the table.

In response to a question from a Wall Street analyst asking about the content strategy for Paramount+ (specifically including Star Trek), Bakish talked broadly about the plan and how Star Trek is an important part of it:

We’re absolutely focused on creating a must-watch service in Paramount+. And we do believe that our positioning of live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment is differentiated and compelling. Now, as part of that, there’s no question that franchises will be key to the success of Paramount+. And related to that, our strategy is to have new original variants of franchises to serve as subscription drivers. Those originals… will be linked to larger library assets that drive subscriber engagement. So, we’re very focused on this strategy. And I’d also note that one of our competitors has clearly demonstrated the value of that approach. So, Star Trek, you mentioned, arguably the original proof-of-concept for CBS All access. There are now multiple variants of it on All Access, it works well for us.

It’s also worth noting that the Star Trek Universe had a prominent place on the cover of today’s earnings presentation.

(ViacomCBS)

Committed to licensing

One of the recent trends in streaming is for the big media companies to pull back licenses to keep all their own content on their own platforms like WarnerMedia has done with Friends on HBO Max or NBC Universal has done with The Office on Peacock. However, ViacomCBS has continued to license content to third parties like South Park to HBO Max or the just-announced deal for The Chappelle Show to multiple streaming platforms including Netflix. When asked about how ViacomCBS sees licensing, Bakish made it clear they are not currently planning on keeping everything to themselves:

In terms of the content licensing business, we have a tremendous asset base in content, both from a library — film library of 4,000 titles, TV library of 140,000 episodes, current series production of 750 series globally. We can’t keep all that for our self. It doesn’t make sense. It’s too much… I’d also say that beyond the financial value of licensing, it has strategic value. We can and do use third-party platforms to extend and expand audience, and that also provides downstream benefits to our owned and operated platforms. That could be about early seasons on a third-party platform, driving demand for new seasons or spin-offs on ours, could also be about broader revenues like consumer products.

While the new Star Trek original series are exclusives to All Access in the USA (and Netflix overseas), ViacomCBS licenses the classic Star Trek shows to multiple streaming players both in the USA and around the world. Based on what the CEO said, it doesn’t appear that even after the launch of Paramount+ there is any plan to pull back all content to their own streaming platforms.

No news on Paramount films

Regarding Paramount Pictures there was little discussion about feature films during the call, except to note that due to the pandemic theater revenue was “immaterial,” however the company has mitigated that by releasing some films to video on demand and/or streaming platforms. There was no discussion on any plans for theatrical releases in 2021 and beyond, and so no updates on plans for the Star Trek film franchise, which is reported to be a priority for the new head of motion pictures for the studio.


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Meanwhile, Midnight’s Edge is probably still claiming Discovery is canceled, Picard is canceled, Kurtzman has been fired, and CBS is selling the franchise because it’s dead. LOL

Yeah, remember back in the day when failing tv shows simply got cancelled? Now they’re rewarded with multiple seasons and new additional series. Glad Midthigh Sludge is around to clear all this up!

I’d rather listen to them than the smug types who frequent here and seem happy to see Star Trek turned into obnoxiously unwatchable unlikable depressing trash.

Last edited 26 days ago by Soren

So Lower Decks depressed you? You, my fried are in the need of medical attention.

I’m talking about the main shows, not the cheapo animation.

Predjudiced against animation much Soren? 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♀️

Last edited 26 days ago by TG47

Hope you find more joy! Just don’t ruin it for those of us who love all the new trek

Thats the orville in a nutshell :)

Well, every satire has a grain of truth. That’s why “failing upwards” is such the driving force among the elites. Hollywood is ruled by favoritism not meritocracy. Just look at the ship guy, the composer and the costume designer of Discovery!

What? You mean it hasn’t…? 🤪

If they’re really serious about theatrical options, howzabout first doing solid 4K transfers on all the past feature films, including branching options for the ones with different cuts?

With a no ad option on their top tier streaming service, this would definitely appeal.

I was hoping for discs rather than streaming, but geez, I just want TMP theatrical cut done up as clean as possible! After that, then I can edit my own version of the movie (which I already did back in the laserdisc era) in high-rez.

Paramount + will not survive long term.

Global is the game, that is why Hulu is going to eventually die.

The problem is that there will be no room or even much interest for Paramount + in the rest of the world.

There is already Netflix, Amazon, Disney, Apple and a variety of domestic content distributors.

I agree that they are slow out of the gate globally, but it’s not unsalvageable.

The split into two firms really set them back at crucial time. They are still ahead of Universal/Peacock though.

The biggest barrier is that they have focused on American-led content, while Netflix, Amazon and Apple are putting out global calls to production companies. Disney may be able to pull that off, but Paramount hasn’t got that kind of global brand recognition.

Disney and Netflix are the true winners of the streaming wars

Is there anything we can do to convince you to not just type the same thing multiple times?

Amen, Bryant….

Ninja is a freshman in the midst of term exams.

I don’t think that they’re tracking well, and they’ve had a spam issue that they managed to turn around up to recently.

How did you forget Amazon Prime Video? Disney is nowhere to be found in Europe, they have a long way to go.

Good point.

ViacomCBS has had good coverage in Europe for a long time with its established specialty cable channels.

Offering that content on its streamer could give them an edge in gaining subscriptions among cord-cutters.

Netflix and Disney are the winners. Apple and Amazon are in the game too. Let’s give that a shot.

Hulu is Disney but Hulu won’t survive.

Last edited 27 days ago by Faze Ninja

I think that you are wrong about Hulu. It is essentially Disney+ for adults and an important part of the Disney streaming ecosystem.

Whether Paramout-CBS can survive long-term as an independent company is an open question. They lack the scale of the big players, but they do have good content. It is conceivable that they could get bought up by a major streaming player like Apple, Netflix, or Amazon.

Last edited 27 days ago by Just Another Salt Vampire

The issue I see with streamers is that every day it seems there are more and more out there. There is no way they can all survive without eventually merging or becoming some sort of bundle people can buy through Comcast or some other 3rd party outlet.

This is the problem I have with streaming services. In general, there are one or two shows on each service that interest me but to be able to watch all of them it quickly becomes an overly expensive proposition. I just don’t think that kind of model is sustainable in the long term. I’d just as soon buy what I like on BluRay but I’ve noticed even there, content seems to be held back. Disney hasn’t made any announcements (that I’m aware of at least) to release The Mandalorian on BluRay for example.

Wouldn’t you have the same problem with cable? You will probably never find everything you like on the same channel.
The advantage of streaming services is that you can cancel them anytime. So if there’s only one or two shows on a service sign up to watch them, then cancel again. Given how short streaming seasons generally are it shouldn’t cost too much – even less if you wait until the full season is out and binge it.
Sure, if you sign up to all of them and stay signed on it’s gonna cost a lot.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t like that you have to hunt down where the shows you’re interested in can be streamed, either. I’d prefer if everything was on Netflix. But I also recognize that such a universal service would probably cost a lot more than Netflix and Co do now.

Maybe they could consider a 4K remaster of DS9 and Voyager. Freshen them up for rollout on the service.

As exclusives? That would certainly keep me from unsubscribing periodically.

Hell, I’d take a 1080p remaster of just DS9 to keep subscribing.

they’re talking about a series called Sisko!

The next feature will also release straight to Paramount+. Makes sense to keep everything under one roof, and it’ll offer a bit more creative flexibility.

Like what Disney is doing with Disney+ right now

I can live with that.

Doesn’t bother me one bit. There’s lots to explore in the Trek universe.

Paramount+ has potential so that’s optimistic note.

I won’t sign up for Paramount+ because of streaming fatigue. Star Trek is not enough to entice me to subscribe again.

Amazon, Netflix, Disney, and HBO Max are enough.

Last edited 27 days ago by Faze Ninja

How are you watching Discovery if you’re not subscribed now?

Last edited 27 days ago by Bryant Burnette

Use a VPN that defeats the Netflix geoblocking and one can watch DSC on Fridays. ExpressVPN is one I recommend.

I don’t need to do that, I subscribe to CBS All Access. And Express VPN — a terrific service, by the way — costs more per month.

For the price of ExpressVPN you can also sign up for CBS All Access. Actually CBS AA is cheaper.

I’ve been watching the Fargo series. Noah Hawley has the capacity to create a wonderful Star Trek movie. His Fargo series is extraordinary.

Fargo has always been good. I love how its shot. I don’t think a Trek feature shot like Fargo would work, however. But I’m sure Hawley knows this.

Fargo is really good. I watched Fargo on Hulu.

One of the best shows on Hulu and Hulu is mediocre as a streaming service.

The only thing I want to hear here is that they have improved their tech to make their streaming service better. Find ways to make the user interface better. Make the controls actually work like an actual DVR would work. Until these issues are hammered out streaming will never be as good as over the air TV or cable.

And for the record, there is nothing on their service beyond Trek worth subscribing for. Why would I want reruns of old TV shows I’ve already seen that have zero re-watch value?

I would like to see shows other than Star Trek that are worth subscribing for.

That’s all I’m asking from CBS.

Then why are you posting this on a Star Trek fan site if you want something other than just Star Trek?

Well, you can be a Star Trek fan and still watch other stuff.

‘Women Who Kill is very funny! And, of course, classic Five-0 is well worth watching!

I subscribe to CBS All Access for access to my local CBS affiliate since I can’t access it over the air. As long as that continues, I’ll subscribe.

I go back to still believing that there is room for professional quality fan films. CBS can easily create a channel for fan films such as ST Continues, or other of those quality and make a ton of money with almost no investment.

I am more than a little surprised CBSAA already has 25 percent of the domestic subs that Netflix has in the U.S. and over half the subs that Hulu has in the U.S. Pretty impressive considering both Netflix and Hulu have been around for more than a decade. Not surprisingly, Disney (which includes Disney+ and Hulu) collectively is now number one in the US with about 85 million plus subs in the U.S. The Disney kids library alone makes it an almost must have for many families. The pandemic has fueled growth across the board for streaming services including CBSAA.

Btw, as for Star Trek Discovery, in Canada, CTV’s streaming service Crave now lists Star Trek Discovery as the number one streamed show, ahead of The Outsiders which apparently is a big hit in the U.S. for HBO.

I’m really impressed by how well Pluto is doing as well.

They are basically dominating the segment of the market that is totally free to users and supported entirely by ads.

More, they are building market share for Pluto in Latin America where they will need to build subscriptions for Paramount+. Picard, with high latinx representation did very well in Mexico and South America compared to previous Trek series. I get a sense that it will be a target for ViacomCBS to get an edge on the other streamers.

in Canada, CTV’s streaming service Crave now lists Star Trek Discovery as the number one streamed show

Discovery has also been in the Netflix top 10 here each week since season 3 came on. Currently at #2 (behind SpongeBob)

For all of the naysayers who say Star Trek is not doing well. A $BILLION DOLLARS this year on streaming revenue alone! That’s about 4 times what the last movie made.

Oh but Midnights Edge says this is all wrong!