Two weeks ago, ViacomCBS made the surprise announcement that they had bought back the international streaming rights to Star Trek: Discovery from Netflix, which prompted a backlash among international fans. Now the company’s CEO is talking about the reasoning behind the decision—along with talking up season four.
CEO: Star Trek is “working” for Paramount+
Earlier today, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish spoke about the future of the media corporation at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference. One of the questions asked by UBS analyst and moderator John Hodulik regarded the trend for ViacomCBS licensing to third parties. Bakish noted that the company continues to bring in revenue for many deals cut before the launch of Paramount+, but priorities have since changed, which includes Star Trek:
As we increasingly transition to leveraging our particular franchises and original production for our owned and operated streaming assets, principally Paramount+… that, in turn, will create a decline in that third-party business over time as these deals roll off. I would note that as an example of that, we just took back Star Trek: Discovery internationally from Netflix. And so we now have that property globally. That’s clearly a core franchise for us, and it’s working.
Following the November removal of Discovery from Netflix, ViacomCBS launched the fourth season on Paramount+ in Latin America, the Nordic countries, and Australia. It also made the show available via the Pluto TV free live streaming service in Europe as part of the “transition” while awaiting the launch of Paramount+ in Europe in early 2022. Today, ViacomCBS also announced a deal to launch Paramount+ in South Korea in 2022, which will be the first Asian launch for the streaming service. And during the UBS panel, Bakish indicated there are plans for more Paramount+ launches in Asia being planned.
The CEO’s warning to investors about third-party licensing revenue declining is another sign that ViacomCBS is serious about keeping their assets on Paramount+. He told the UBS conference, “We’re on a path where you will see us increasingly maximize our franchises for our owned and operated benefit.” In addition to buying back the Discovery international rights from Netflix, we have also seen how ViacomCBS is letting other licensing deals lapse as they “roll off,” resulting in three Star Trek series leaving Netflix in the USA back in September.
Discovery Season 4 has CEO “feeling good”
Bakish also talked up the latest season of Discovery, which premiered on November 18:
We just launched season four… and it’s off to the fastest start in terms of subscribers than all of the Discovery series seasons to date. So we’re feeling good about that.
Bakish revealed that Paramount+ had its best week ever and best month ever in November. However, Discovery has yet to be confirmed for a fifth season. Traditionally, Paramount+ (previously CBS All Access) has announced additional season pickups around the time of the launch of a new season, as they did recently for Star Trek: Prodigy.