Will Viacom-CBS Go Streaming?

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Image courtesy of CBS/Viacom)

Viacom and CBS merged, again, into one company.  Viacom-CBS also purchased a 49% stake in Miramax for $375 million to control its library of content of 700+ titles.  However, Viacom is at a crossroads.  To stream or not to stream is an obvious “yes” answer as the company must keep up and stay current with the industry changes and customer habits and preferences, particularly cord-cutting.

However, Viacom-CBS needs to determine whether it will stream all of its content on other existing and forthcoming platforms.  Or, Viacom-CBS can create its own version of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple+, Peacock, or HBO Max, and stream its content direct-to-consumer on a company-owned platform.  Viacom-CBS has seemingly taken the approach to date of streaming their content elsewhere, but not on a platform it controls.  Viacom-CBS could consider the application-approach where its content is available via an app on an existing streamer, like Amazon Prime.  On the other hand, it could consider a different approach. 

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has shown his cards in some sense by brokering two deals with Netflix.  Specifically, in streaming Paramount and Nickelodeon properties on Netflix, and ShowTime content, and there is a call for further exclusive deals for films like a new Beverly Hills Cop with actor/comedian Eddie Murphy.  Viacom is also producing some short-form content for the Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman-led Quibi.  BET+ is already working with Tyler Perry Studios.  Noggin and Paramount are also existing apps that contain Paramount and Nickelodeon content, like the show Yellowstone with actor Kevin Costner.  CBS All Access is available too.  Finally, and just as interesting, Viacom purchased Pluto TV for $340 million, a free television streaming platform.   

If one is following the trends, cord-cutting and streaming is the future with a mix of traditional television that becomes less popular as the population gets younger.  Viacom seems to be moving to that space of cord-cutting and streaming.  Viacom seems to want to become a library of content dealer. 

What is the best strategy for Viacom-CBS?  Scale is always important in business, especially in the entertainment, media, and sports content streaming and distribution space.  Viacom and CBS merged to have a greater library to combat the competition and to survive.  The deals mentioned previously were all in the name of content creation, acquisition, and distribution.  What Viacom-CBS is missing is a clear strategy as what it is now or what the company wants to become compared to NBCUniversal/Peacock, Netflix, Warner Media/HBO Max, Disney+/Hulu, etc.?   

Viacom-CBS could do well by creating a newly-branded streaming platform to house everything with one-off deals on other streamers and studios.  That seems to be the missing piece, a self-branded streamer.  Whether Viacom-CBS makes that move is anyone’s guess at this point.  It may be that Lionsgate and Viacom-CBS are in similar situations, large companies, but not large enough to launch a streamer that might lose money to start with more growth on the backend (e.g., Apple/Apple+).  Both may just be better situated to just license its content to others as its production and distribution strategy.  Viacom-CBS is also a player in the NCAA and NFL sports broadcast space, so sports is also a part of its current and future plans and serves as a hedger of bets of sorts.  

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