ViacomCBS courts 5G industry

In an announcement that's long on vision but short on specifics, ViacomCBS Networks International said it is primed to engage with network operators, tech vendors, brands and agencies to "harness the full potential of 5G's coming capabilities that will radically transform the entire entertainment industry."

Highlighting the fast data speeds and low latencies supported by emerging 5G networks, ViacomCBS said it expects the technology/platform to transform the media value chain – from production to distribution and consumption. In turn, it sees 5G unlocking new immersive and interactive experiences across TV, film games and live events.

ViacomCBS did not identify any initial partners for its 5G focus but said it already has multiple partnerships in place with mobile operators around the world. The company also released a position paper outlining why it believes 5G is critical to its future, singling out elements such as "ultra-high quality" video streaming, low latencies required for live, interactive events, gaming and VR applications, and the use of 5G for remote, multi-camera field productions and backend workflows.

"Our doors are open for 5G focused collaborative partnerships and tech innovation," Olivier Jollet, SVP of strategy & business development, streaming and head of mobile, ViacomCBS Networks International, said in a statement. "Now is the time to partner with us in developing and leveraging the full potential of 5G to come."

With respect to remote productions underpinned by 5G, ViacomCBS noted it conducted some live tests last fall in Amsterdam on a public 5G network to deliver an "MTV Push" performance by Dutch musical artist Emma Heesters. That test took advantage of dedicated bandwidth (using 5G network slicing) and AI-controlled remote cameras, the company added.

"The result from 5G connecting remote production will be more content from more places, greater artistic freedom, more agility, increased safety and reduced costs," ViacomCBS explained. "The COVID-19 pandemic of the last year has clearly ushered a larger-than-ever reliance on technology, accelerating digital transformation for every industry, and 5G is now poised to transform the ways we create, distribute, and consume entertainment media."

Shift to streaming

ViacomCBS's hailing of 5G as a technology poised to "revolutionize the media and entertainment industry" enters the picture as the media giant undergoes a transformation of its own. Amid the ongoing decline of traditional pay-TV, ViacomCBS, like other major players in the media sector, has been doubling-down on streaming and direct-to-consumer distribution models.

Its most recent move in that direction was the March 4 debut of Paramount+, a successor to the CBS All Access service. Paramount+ is now ViacomCBS's leading streaming property, complemented by services such as Showtime, which is also offered as a standalone streaming service, and Pluto TV, a free, ad-supported streaming service.

However, ViacomCBS also sees 5G as a distribution platform for its broader range of properties, including CBS, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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