Is a spinoff television series based on “The Godfather,” along with revivals of “Frasier” and “Inside Amy Schumer,” enough to reignite interest in a seven-year-old streaming service?
ViacomCBS executives are hoping so.
On Wednesday, the company staged a three-hour presentation previewing its newly named streaming platform, Paramount+, which will effectively replace CBS All Access on March 4.
“This is a big day, a new day, a new beginning,” Shari Redstone, the chair of ViacomCBS, said from the Paramount Lot in Los Angeles in the virtual event.
The streaming service will have an advantage in that it already has several million subscribers. But Paramount+ hits a mature market that includes formidable competitors: Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock, Discovery+ and Apple TV+.
The company made a slew of announcements promising new content, including a weekly show from Trevor Noah, the host of “The Daily Show” on ViacomCBS’s Comedy Central network; a “Ray Donovan” film; and new installments of “A Quiet Place” and “Mission: Impossible” movies, which will begin streaming on the service 45 days after their theatrical release.
“We know how to make hits,” said Bob Bakish, the chief executive of ViacomCBS. “Every streaming service has had a monster hit from one of our studios.”
That strategy of licensing its shows and films is one reason that ViacomCBS is missing an awful lot from its library. It has spent the better part of two years playing the role of a so-called arms dealer, selling material to other services.
The company sold the back library of “South Park” to HBO Max for a reported $500 million. Popular series like “Jack Ryan,” produced by Paramount, have gone to Amazon. Paramount also sold the highly anticipated “Coming 2 America” sequel to Amazon for a reported $125 million last year. That film, starring Eddie Murphy, will go online the day after Paramount+ makes its debut next week.
ViacomCBS executives noted one thing that sets its service apart from Disney+ and Netflix: Its emphasis on live sports and news. National Football League games will appear on Paramount+, as will some of its news programs, including “60 Minutes+” a spinoff of the long-running television newsmagazine with younger correspondents who previously appeared on the Quibi series “60 in 6.”
The company did not exactly do itself any favors in the early going of Wednesday’s event: A streaming event touting its prowess in streaming was unexpectedly delayed by 32 minutes. (A company representative said the delay was “due to last-minute registrations.”) Investors stared at a blue screen that said little more than “ViacomCBS Streaming Event, 4:15 PM ET,” even as the clock ticked. Rival companies that have staged similar events over the last two years — including Disney, Apple and Discovery — had a military precision.
ViacomCBS said CBS All Access and Showtime’s stand-alone streaming service had a combined 19.2 million domestic subscribers, adding a little more than a million customers over the last three months. The company has not publicly said how many of those subscribers are for CBS All Access alone. Showtime’s streaming service will remain separate from Paramount+.
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