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Paramount+ sets price for ad-free 'premium,' ad-supported 'base' tiers

Paramount+, the super-sized streaming service from ViacomCBS, will take a two-pronged approach to pricing with an ad-free "premium" tier along with a cheaper, ad-supported "base" offering.

ViacomCBS said the "premium" form of Paramount+, set to launch March 4, will cost $9.99 per month. The "base" tier of Paramount+, to launch sometime in June, will have advertising and cost $4.99 per month.

By comparison, CBS All Access currently costs $5.99 per month with ads, and $9.99 without ads. So, the only initial price change is for the base version of Paramount+ – $1 less than what the ad-supported version of CBS All Access goes for today.

ViacomCBS is forecasting 65 million to 75 million subs globally for Paramount+ by 2024, expecting total streaming revenues from all OTT services to pull in about $7 billion by then.

As the general content slate goes, the premium version of Paramount+ will include more live sports, access to CBS local stations and the live CBS national feed.

Click here for a larger version of this image.  
(Source: ViacomCBS)
Click here for a larger version of this image.
(Source: ViacomCBS)

ViacomCBS reasoned that it will have more flexibility about bundling and distribution deals by keeping local CBS channels out of the base tier.

Paramount+ will debut with 30,000 TV shows and about 2,500 movies, along with plans to introduce 36 original series in 2021 that include a mix of some reboots, prequels and remakes. News and live sports will also factor in heavily alongside general entertainment fare. Following a launch in the US and Canada on March 4, Paramount+ will debut in the Nordics on March 25 and in Australia in mid-2021.

Some examples of the original fare on tap include Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a series about the maiden voyages of the Starship Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike, and Star Trek: Prodigy, an animated show for children. Also on slate is a prequel/spinoff series for Yellowstone currently titled 6666 and a revival of Frasier. Halo, a show based on the computer game, is billed as a "defining show" for the new streaming service.

ViacomCBS will also offer a selection of new Paramount movies on the Paramount+ streaming service within 30 to 45 days of their theatrical release. While that does narrow the distribution window, it's not anywhere near the simultaneous home/theatrical window WarnerMedia is using for its 2021 movie slate.

The Paramount+ reveal was part of a multi-hour event that outlined ViacomCBS's broader streaming strategy/vision. While Paramount+ falls into the super pay category, Showtime will continue to represent the premium category, and Pluto TV will continue to focus on free, ad-supported streaming channels that feature dozens of channels and a vehicle to promote fare on Paramount+ and Showtime.

Tom Ryan, president and CEO of streaming at ViacomCBS, said Pluto TV will serve as part of a "super funnel" that leads viewers to ViacomCBS's pay and premium subscription services. Pluto TV recently launched Showtime Selects, a free channel featuring Showtime programming, and it is expected to launch a similar channel for Paramount+.

Despite its amped up streaming play, ViacomCBS expects to stay in the traditional linear TV market for the foreseeable future.

Being all-in on linear or all-in on streaming is a "false choice," Shari Redstone, chair of ViacomCBS, said. "We're about both linear and streaming … We will live in this hybrid environment for a while."

Still, some analysts wonder if the focus on Paramount+, and packing a bunch of new premium content into the streaming service, will create friction when ViacomCBS tries to strike new deals with pay-TV providers. Notably, Comcast has already integrated CBS All Access (and soon, Paramount+) on X1, its pay-TV platform, as well as Flex, Comcast's streaming service for broadband-only customers.

Q4 snapshot

ViacomCBS announced Q4 results in tandem with the streaming strategy dog and pony show. The company's global streaming sub base ended 2020 with 30 million, up 56% year-over-year, and it saw ad revenues more than double in the quarter.

Pluto TV's base of global monthly active users (MAUs) hit 43 million, up 80% year-over-year, while its domestic MAUs rose 34%, to 30.1 million.

ViacomCBS's global streaming and digital revenues rose 71%, to $888 million, driven by 74% growth in streaming subscription revenues and 69% in streaming ad revenue growth.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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