Viacom CEO cautious about positioning SVOD as alternative to pay-TV


Viacom is taking steps into the SVOD and skinny bundle universe, but it’s being careful to protect relationships with pay-TV providers.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said during today’s earnings call that SVODs and skinny bundles are important but that we have to be careful we’re “not creating inexpensive opportunities to serve as an alternative.”

Bakish noted that operators like Charter have hinted toward offering a nonsports bundle and that Viacom sees the entertainment channel pack initiative as fitting in perfectly as a low-price entry point for consumers who aren’t currently in the ecosystem. He added that Viacom is in “very deep” conversations with one particular company about launching a nonsports bundle and any bundle like that would probably include integrated over-the-air broadcast signals.

“We fundamentally believe a lower-price offering would be very compelling,” said Bakish, adding that it would likely not involve all of Viacom’s channels.

RELATED: AMC, Discovery, Viacom planning nonsports TV channel package, report says

Bakish presented these tentative plans under the banner of evolving partnerships with pay-TV partners.

“We are strategically involved in maintaining the value of the pay-TV ecosystem,” Bakish said.

Viacom’s comments come amid recent reports pointing toward plans for AMC, Discovery and Viacom to launch nonsports bundles priced around $20-per-month. According to Bloomberg, the programmers are in talks with four to six operators about a livestreaming channel package offered over the internet, and one such service could become available as soon as later this year.

RELATED: AMC Networks reportedly planning SVOD service for TV subscribers

Like Viacom, AMC Networks is also actively working to protect its relationships with pay-TV providers and the lucrative carriage agreements that stem from those relationships. Case in point, AMC is reportedly planning to launch an SVOD service that requires both a monthly fee and a pay-TV subscription for authentication.

Perhaps not coincidentally, programmers like AMC and Viacom have found themselves on the outside looking in as a new wave of virtual MVPDs have been popping up. Viacom’s channels won’t be available in Hulu’s live TV service or YouTube TV. AMC is also out at Hulu, for the time being, although YouTube announced that it will soon add AMC’s programming to its livestreaming package.