David Lynn, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, shared insights on the company’s plans for a “super-sized” global streaming platform in 2021.
“We’re seeing a secular move from linear to on-demand,” Lynn said. “During the pandemic, we’ve seen a pronounced move toward streaming. So this feels like the right time for us to be making this move. We’re launching an international streaming service, targeted for all broad audiences, it will be a super-sized offering of the best content from across ViacomCBS. This is the result of the merger. We had two content powerhouses come together. The service will have a lot of exclusive, original and premium content, for example, output deals with Showtime and CBS All Access, and great content from all the marquee brands we have: Paramount Pictures, the Viacom brands.”
The phase-one markets are Australia, Latin America and the Nordics. “We’re working through now what will be our next set of markets after that.”
A key advantage for ViacomCBS, Lynn said, “is we are operating across 30 international markets, so we have global advantages, whether that be content or using a global platform, but we’ll also be leveraging the strength of our operations in local markets, whether that be local content, distribution relationships or even promotion from the assets we have in those markets.”
As for the launch markets and evaluating the next set, Lynn said, “The rationale was where those markets are in terms of development for OTT, what our content avails were and what the competitive landscape is.”
ViacomCBS’s existing distribution partnerships will remain crucial to the company, Lynn said. “We are going to pursue a flexible distribution strategy. We will absolutely go D2C but equally, we’re looking to do B2C partnerships with MVPDs and MNOs. We have always focused a lot on partnerships across our international business. We have a broad product offer now. We have our linear channels and these additional services. We will work with our distribution partners to bring these to market across the international business. We also have Pluto, so in the same way we have a large presence in free and pay TV, we are going to have a large presence in free and paid streaming. The aim is for us to become a material player with substantial revenues from an advertising perspective, a licensing perspective and a subscription perspective across streaming and become a market leader internationally.”
On pricing, Lynn said rates will be unveiled closer to the launch date. “It will be a mid-priced and competitively priced service. Our aim is to be competitive in the marketplace.”
On original content, beyond the CBS All Access and Showtime series, “We will produce local originals in most of the markets that we’ll launch in. In Latin America, ViacomCBS International Studios is already developing content that will be premiere on the new streaming service. In Australia, because of the link with Network 10, we’re working with them to create original content.”
Asked about how he measures success for the new service, Lynn said, “We aim to have a meaningful subscriber number for the international business. We don’t split out the international subscriber targets, but what I can say is that our aim is to launch and be a leading player in the markets we are launching in. We are focused on markets where we believe we can grow a meaningful international subscription number.”
As for the timing of an Asian rollout for both the SVOD and AVOD services, Lynn noted, “I see Asia as a significant OTT opportunity for us. The Asian markets are incredibly advanced in terms of streaming, especially mobile. What differentiates us is we have this twin-track strategy, a play in free through Pluto and through the super-streamer service. Every market in Asia is very different. Some are more focused on advertising versus subscription. Having the two products enables us to adapt our strategy to what makes sense in the individual markets. My ambition is to become an important player in streaming in Asia, as we look at it we will work out what the right strategy is in the individual markets.”
Mobile partnerships, especially as 5G rolls out, will be important for ViacomCBS as it builds its platforms in the region, Lynn said.
“We also have our kids’ service, Noggin. So while our main focus on the subscription side will be on our super-streamer service, there is an opportunity in the preschool space to have a niche service. Noggin has rolled out globally in many markets. I see opportunities to roll out Noggin in Asia.”
Asked if there are simply too many streaming services out there, Lynn said, “I draw the analogy with our linear service. We have successfully had linear pay services and linear free services. It is market segmentation. At the end of the day, there will be consumers who are willing to pay and consumers looking for free services. We want to be as major a player in streaming as we have been in linear networks. Therefore the combination of having Pluto and our super service in subscription enables us to attack different parts of the marketplace. I believe the streaming world will look similar to the channels world. There will be a free advertising-based services and subscription services.”