Pierluigi Gazzolo on VIS, OTT Opportunities


Pierluigi Gazzolo, the recipient of the inaugural Premio Ícono TV Latina Award in association with NATPE, weighed in on what’s driving the success of Viacom International Studios (VIS) and the shifting dynamics in the LatAm media business in his keynote at NATPE Miami today in conversation with World Screen’s Anna Carugati.

Gazzolo is the recently appointed president of Viacom International Studios and OTT at ViacomCBS Networks International. He is being honored by TV Latina and NATPE for his contributions to the media business with the Premio Ícono TV Latina Award.

Employing a studios model at Viacom (now ViacomCBS) was key, Gazzolo noted, as the company shifted away from just being a networks business. “That became the core of our strategy.”

When he was at the helm of the LatAm business at Viacom International Media Networks, Gazzolo was instrumental in the company’s acquisitions of Telefe and Porta dos Fundos. “They were game-changers for us,” Gazzolo said. “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.”

VIS has since expanded beyond Latin America into Europe, producing both for its sister networks as well as third parties, with further growth planned. VIS has launched in the U.K., catering to clients beyond sister company Channel 5, and in Spain. “There will be many more markets to come.”

Across the board at VIS, co-productions are “incredibly important,” Gazzolo said, given the rising demand for content across the globe and need to manage costs and risk. “As long as you find the right partner, it is inevitable that you have to share the costs. There are so many models.”

With the wealth of great stories in LatAm, Gazzolo and his team knew that VIS output would be able to travel extensively. “We learned the concept of, make the story you need [for local audiences], but keep it universal.”

In addition to expanding VIS, the company has been rolling out a portfolio of multiplatform services, including Paramount+ and Noggin.

“We did a lot of research on consumption habits. You have to constantly update yourself. Imagine a pyramid. At the top, you have the people that are willing to pay for content. The bottom is wider, those are people that will never pay for content. That is a big chunk of Latin America. The middle part of the pyramid is the hybrid place. This is where the distributors live, the MVPDs live. They are there to aggregate both. They want subscribers to stay with them. The ultimate goal of the advanced MVPD is that my subscriber never leaves my set-top box. They aggregate the top of the pyramid, which is products like Netflix, and the bottom of the pyramid, which is YouTube and [free TV]. We wanted to be in those places. We were already in the middle. With Paramount+ and Noggin, we hit the top. With Pluto TV, which we think is an amazing product that is launching soon in LatAm, we have [a free product].”

On engaging young viewers on Nick, Gazzolo commented, “It is the toughest audience to retain and attract. No matter their backgrounds, there is one characteristic they all share, with passion, and that is to be in control. They have to be in control over what they consume. You add to that complexity the fact that they are amazing multitaskers; they go from screen to screen seamlessly. So how do you reach them? In the case of our linear channels, we always have a social media element to everything we do. We are starting to experiment with interactivity on the channels. Thirdly, we have a very strong Nickelodeon authenticated app, plus subscription apps.”

On the streaming landscape, Gazzolo said there’s no clear answer on how many SVOD services a consumer will realistically pay for. “The average U.S. subscriber has an average of 2.5 paid apps. These are consumers who have a pay-TV subscription, mostly. Millennials, it’s about 3.7 paid apps. If you think about the average cost, which is about $8 per app, those 3.7 average products become less than a third of cable…. Nobody yet has said, I’m going to stop and not choose to have three or four. You add to that complexity that distributors are aggregating the apps. Right now there are a lot of things happening that suggest that people will eventually adapt to a new model.”

Gazzolo said he sees huge opportunity on the AVOD side. “I believe it’s going to grow exponentially.”

ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV has been “curated intelligently,” Gazzolo noted. “It’s not world premieres, it’s second and third windows, but it’s been curated in a great way.” The AVOD platform has expanded beyond the U.S. into the U.K. and Germany, with a LatAm launch soon.

The session ended with a video presentation of several executives congratulating Gazzolo on his Premio Ícono TV Latina Award, including David Lynn, president and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International, and Bob Bakish, ViacomCBS president and CEO.