Exclusive Interview: Pierluigi Gazzolo on His Long Career at ViacomCBS


After 27 years at a company he calls his family, Pierluigi Gazzolo is leaving ViacomCBS at the end of the month to take a break from a corporate career and look at different paths ahead.

In an exclusive interview with World Screen, Gazzolo, who was appointed president of streaming for international and Viacom International Studios (VIS) at ViacomCBS in November of 2019, said he has spent half his life with the company—starting with MTV Latino, then MTV Networks Latin America with the launch of Nickelodeon, then Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) and, most recently, ViacomCBS. “I’ve grown up with this company; I’ve been blessed with opportunities and promotions,” Gazzolo said, thanking Bob Bakish, the president and CEO of ViacomCBS, and David Lynn, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International. “But it’s time to take a personal reset and think of other entrepreneurial paths.”

Gazzolo had told Lynn and Bakish of his plan before his current role, but they asked him to remain a while longer to help develop ViacomCBS’s international streaming strategy. It involved growing the international presence of the free service, Pluto TV, and developing the subscription product, Paramount+, and expanding on the success of VIS in the Americas by scaling it internationally. Gazzolo said this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Paramount+ is the rebranded CBS All Access service. Internationally, as Gazzolo explained, “It is scheduled to launch in the first half of 2021 in Latin America, Brazil, Australia and the Nordics, in its first phase.” It will premiere premium product, aggregating originals from Showtime, Paramount, CBS, BET, MTV and Comedy Central, as well as library product.

Of the many shows bowing on the service, Gazzolo highlighted Showtime’s drama First Ladies, starring Viola Davis as Michelle Obama; Lioness, a spy drama based on a real CIA program; and The Offer, a scripted limited event series about the making of The Godfather.

Meanwhile, Pluto TV, whose growth Gazzolo described as “massive,” will continue to launch in new territories. It is already in Latin America with 50 channels, in addition to Germany, the U.K. and Spain, and will debut in Brazil in November.

Helping to shape ViacomCBS’s international streaming products is the latest of Gazzolo’s many career accomplishments. He was one of the first in the industry to recognize content’s ability to travel across borders, as he told me during our conversation at NATPE in January when he was awarded the Premio Ícono TV Latina award. “We learned the concept of, make the story you need [for local audiences], but keep it universal.” He also strongly believed in the value of owning content and spearheaded VIMN’s businesses in Latin American to shift from being primarily a network business to a studio business. He led the acquisitions of Telefe and Porta dos Fundos, which were instrumental in setting up Viacom International Studios.

“They were game-changers for us,” Gazzolo said at NATPE. “The intent was always scale. The most important scale we wanted to gain was content scale. Telefe brought us amazing scripted ideas, thousands of hours produced, that we could now monetize. Porta dos Fundos is an incredible creator of comedic content. They had a very powerful position on YouTube. Now it has gone from a short-form producer to a long-form comedy powerhouse. Without those acquisitions, I don’t think we would have had Viacom International Studios.”

Viacom International Studios then expanded into the U.K. and Spain, with further growth planned.

Gazzolo also believed in reaching consumers with multiple offers, from free TV to premium pay services.

During our exclusive interview, he repeated more than once how much he will miss his family at ViacomCBS. Undoubtedly, the feeling among staffers and management is mutual.