The reporting on the name switch from ViacomCBS to Paramount as a corporate moniker is that the newly branded company is “now” focussing on streaming. Those who are buying into that line of thinking could not be more wrong. No matter what was said at an investor announcement or any other publication, this company has obviously been shifting towards streaming for years. The company has been working towards a streaming future since 2014 when CBS All Access launched. CBS was the first of all of the major networks to launch a network branded direct to consumer (DTC) service. And it had the prescient idea to include streaming access to local CBS affiliates as part of the service. It started slow and the company had a lot of misses on the original content front but stood behind the product throughout betting on the future. You don’t really think that CBS was not planning for All Access at least a few years before it launched do you?
Then in 2015 Showtime launched as a streaming product. While HBO Max gets more press in the space, people forget that Showtime was first on the board offering premium cable on-demand movies and TV shows DTC. In fact, Showtime like Paramount+ even offers viewers live feeds through its app, an option that HBO Max does not. It should not be ignored that when CBS and Viacom tied the knot again the new company included Pluto TV, which was nothing but a scrappy startup only a few years prior. Other companies may well have dropped the free ad-supported streaming service or spun it off but the people at the new company saw the writing on the wall before most of the industry did. In 2020 ViacomCBS named Pluto TV’s Tom Ryan head of streaming and got out of the way.
It obviously had this all in mind when it rebranded CBS All Access as Paramount+. At the time it might have seemed strange from the outside that a company with so many assets chose to brand the service with the movie studio name. But now the streaming service matches the name of the cooperation. To believe that these decisions were made recently challenges my intelligence.
The historical record now shows that Paramount foresaw the trend in cord-cutting/demand for access to network TV without cable or an antenna when it was a mere trickle of what it is now. It understood that free streaming services were a major part of the future before Comcast followed suit in buying XUMO or Fox bought Tubi TV. And the results are in the numbers. Paraount+ has 32 million subscribers and 56 million subscribers between Showtime and Paramount+.
Those numbers do not approach Netflix or Disney+ but the thing is that these are totally different types of services. Paramount+ and Showtime do not pretend to have the same kinds of libraries that either of those services has. The service is an investment in the future of the way people watch TV. It allows the company to beam NFL games to everyone with a screen whether it is on a TV through cable, with an antenna, on a satellite dish, or internet connection. It also allows anybody with a connected phone or tablet or computer to see the exact same thing. And as cord-cutting continues it has a tool to make up for the loss of viewership that accompanies it. People want to get access to live TV during sporting events and people also want to be able to see their favorite shows at their own schedule and ViacomCBS is the only company that puts both of those concepts together right now.
And soon, users will be able to put Showtime and Paramount+ together in one service if they choose to. At $12.00 per month, the company is pricing the package pretty aggressively while keeping the two services separated for those who would rather not cross the streams. So while others say that the company is pivoting towards streaming we think its pretty obvious that it has been the plan for a decade. And while its profits have not yet caught up to its vision you can bet that they will.