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Video/Media

ViacomCBS adds 6M streaming subs in Q1, extends total to 36M

Fueled by the March 4 launch of Paramount+, ViacomCBS said it added 6 million streaming subs worldwide in Q1 2021, ending the period with a base of 36 million paid streaming subscribers. The result beat analyst estimates that the media giant would add about 4.8 million paid streaming subs in the period.

Paramount+, the successor to CBS All Access, launched March 4 on most major streaming platforms. It has also been integrated with Comcast's X1 and Xfinity Flex platforms.  
(Source: ViacomCBS)
Paramount+, the successor to CBS All Access, launched March 4 on most major streaming platforms. It has also been integrated with Comcast's X1 and Xfinity Flex platforms.
(Source: ViacomCBS)

The 6 million streaming sub gains in the quarter overwhelmingly came from domestic Paramount+ customers, Bob Bakish, ViacomCBS's president and CEO, said on today's earnings call.

ViacomCBS, the result of a merger in late 2019, said live sports and specials, including Super Bowl LV, NCAA Tournament games and UEFA Champions League coverage, certain kids shows, and original content such as The Stand and Star Trek: Discovery, were the main drivers for Paramount+ signups in the quarter.

Bakish said the conversion rate of Paramount+ customers from free trials to paid subs is consistent with what ViacomCBS saw with CBS All Access, even with an accelerating subscriber base after the launch of the revamped and rechristened OTT service.

ViacomCBS's "premium" tier of Paramount+ that launched in March costs $9.99 per month. An ad-supported "base" version of the streaming service will launch in early June and cost $4.99 per month. In addition to expanding Paramount+'s addressable market, the ad-supported tier will bring more ad inventory to "EyeQ," a connected video advertising platform launched last fall, Bakish said.

ViacomCBS's latest forecast calls for Paramount+ to have between 65 million and 75 million subs worldwide by 2024.

Pluto TV has 'substantial room to run'

On the free, ad-supported side of ViacomCBS's business, Pluto TV's global base of monthly active users (MAUs) rose to 49.5 million at the end of Q1 2021, up 6.4 million from the 43.1 million it had at the end of 2020, and up from just 26 million at the end of the year-ago period.

Pluto TV recently added 19 new streaming channels to its mix, including a Major League Baseball channel, and now reaches 25 global markets.

ViacomCBS views its free Pluto TV streaming service as a funnel that leads viewers to its full streaming portfolio, including its various subscription-based offerings. "Cleary, the top of the funnel continues to be robust," Bakish said.

The trajectories of ViacomCBS's paid and ad-based OTT services led to Q1 2021 streaming revenues of $816 million – with $428 million in advertising revenues and $388 million in subscription revenues. That compared to a year-ago result of $494 million, including $265 million of ad revenues and $229 million of subscription revenues.

Advertising growth was driven by Pluto TV, which saw domestic watch time rise 28% in the period. However, the selling of ad inventory on Pluto TV is "nowhere near 100%," Bakish said. "So, we have substantial room to run."

ViacomCBS pulled in total Q1 revenues of $7.41 billion, up from $6.49 billion in the year-ago period.

ViacomCBS CFO Naveen Chopra reiterated that ViacomCBS views the streaming business as accretive to the traditional linear TV business, thanks to a mix of business models comprised of free/advertising and paid/premium.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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