EARNINGS CALL

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish Leaps Into Streaming

While Wednesday’s big presentation for investors was focused on Paramount+, Chairman Shari Redstone made it clear that ViacomCBS isn’t discounting its broadcast and cable businesses. “We’re about both linear and streaming,” she declared.

With Paramount+ set to launch March 4 as an expanded replacement for CBS All Access, ViacomCBS pitched Wall Street Wednesday with a three-hour-plus fourth quarter wrap-up and Investor Day. The virtual event was a half-hour late getting online, but kicked off with a Mission: Impossible spoof showing President-CEO Bob Bakish parachuting to the presentation to be greeted by Chairman Shari Redstone. Yes, it was hokey, but it gave us a chuckle to see Bob Bakish in the role normally filled by Tom Cruise.

With the carefully choreographed video presentation focused on the new streaming product, we had to turn to the company’s press release for insight into how the TV Entertainment segment did in the fourth quarter. For the quarter, the announcement crowed that “CBS was the most-watched network in daytime and latenight and claimed the quarter’s top drama, news magazine and 4 of the top 5 comedies, as well as the top new comedy series.”

Advertising revenue was down 1% year-over-year to $1.65 billion. The company said that reflected the impacts from the delayed start of the fall broadcast season and the sale of CNET Media Group. But that was offset by record growth in political advertising.

Affiliate revenue increased 23% to $841 million. That was “driven by growth in reverse compensation and retransmission fees, as well as robust streaming subscription revenue from CBS All Access.”

While the big presentation for investors was focused on Paramount+, Redstone made it clear early on that ViacomCBS isn’t discounting its broadcast and cable businesses. “We’re about both linear and streaming,” she declared.

In making his pitch for Paramount+, Bakish hailed the history of CBS setting the stage for the streaming service to have a leg up on competitors.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

“It starts with live sports. CBS was a pioneer of live sports on television more than seven decades ago, with coverage of college football, PGA golf and the NFL. College basketball found a home on CBS four decades ago. Today, Paramount+ is helping to bring those sports — and more — into the streaming era with over 1,000 live sporting events a year,” Bakish declared.

And he noted the company’s heritage in breaking news.

“There are few brands more storied or celebrated in journalism than CBS News. Back when giants like Edward R. Murrow walked its halls, CBS invented broadcast news. Eight decades later, our award-winning news program franchises like the renowned 60 Minutes are among the most-watched and trusted in the world. And now, that commitment to excellence is carrying over to the streaming era,” the CEO said.

“Paramount+ is the only streaming service where well-informed citizens will get both a 24-hour news network and local news and weather from 200 local affiliates across America,” Bakish said. CBS affiliates had been included as financial and content partners in CBS All Access from the beginning and that continues with the rebranding to Paramount+.


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