ViacomCBS is two quarters into the combined company, and its CEO Robert Bakish spent some time on the company’s Q2 2020 earnings call talking about the future rebranding and “super-sizing” of CBS All Access.
In 2021 the company expects “to see a significant expansion of first-run originals, including originals from all the brands” added to the expanded streaming service, said Bakish. “This will be a truly differentiated streaming product,” he said.
The company hasn’t yet announced a name for the new super-sized pay TV streaming service.
CBS All Access currently offers more than 20,000 titles. It costs $5.99 per month with ads and $9.99 without ads. It recently added the flagship brands Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Smithsonian. This is in addition to the 150-plus Paramount movies it added about two months ago.
For its new, super-sized service, the company will give a focus to international streaming. “We will focus next year's initial rollout on a set of high-value territories where we see an opportunity to become the market leader,” said Bakish. “These territories include Australia, Latin America and the Nordics.” The company will bring content from all ViacomCBS brands, including Showtime.
ViacomCBS ended its second quarter with 16.2 million pay TV subscribers, up 74% year-over-year. The company increased its domestic pay streaming subscriber guidance to 18 million by year-end.
Pluto TV is ViacomCBS’ free, ad-supported streaming service. The company plans to use Pluto TV to help boost the super-sized service. “We're building an integrated ecosystem where Pluto's platform will feed our pay offerings,” said Bakish.
And ViacomCBS is also focusing Pluto TV on international markets. Pluto TV entered selected markets in Europe last year, and in April it entered 17 Spanish-speaking Latin American markets.
“Our geographic expansion will continue, with plans underway to launch new local versions of Pluto TV in a number of additional priority markets, including Brazil and Spain this year and France and Italy in 2021,” said Bakish.
In the second quarter, Pluto TV's domestic monthly active users (MAUs) grew 61% to 26.5 million. The company is projecting 30 million domestic MAUs by year-end.
Both Bakish and CFO Christina Spade were bullish on cost synergies related to the integration of Viacom and CBS. The company increased its expected 2020 merger-related cost synergies from $250 million to $300 million. And it now expects to achieve annualized run rate cost synergies of $800 million, up from its prior $750 million by the end of 2022.
Total company revenue was $6.28 billion, down 12% year-over-year. Advertising revenue was down 27% versus a year ago, overwhelmingly affected by COVID-19, which resulted in a significant pullback by advertisers.
Domestic streaming and digital video revenue, which includes subscription and digital video advertising revenue, was up 25% versus a year ago to $489 million.
Earlier this week, ViacomCBS said it plans to start using a new ad platform, EyeQ, in fall 2020.
The company says EyeQ will serve advertisers with a single transactional point of entry for its digital video content. The new platform will allow advertisers to access a viewing audience that measures 50 million full-episode monthly unique viewers in the U.S., and 150 million across all content and all devices.