Viacom emerging as content supplier as other media companies look to go direct-to-consumer

Viacom and Paramount are turning things around. (Ben Munson/FierceVideo)

As Disney and WarnerMedia plot big direct-to-consumer product launches for 2019, Viacom is assuming a role as a content supplier for streaming services.

The company described its fiscal fourth-quarter results as indicative of its shift toward becoming a global supplier of multiplatform content for both in-house and third-party platforms. That transformation is beginning to pay as Viacom raised its consolidated revenues by 5%.

“We also took important steps to evolve Viacom for the future—investing in our portfolio of advanced marketing solutions, digital and experiential offerings and global studio production business. As we head into 2019, we are excited about the company’s evolution and expect to return to topline growth,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a statement.

Viacom’s digital growth is being driven by its $1 billion studio production business. MTV Studios, launched in June, is bringing back MTV’s “The Real World” for Facebook, and Nickelodeon is reviving “Avatar: The Last Airbender” for Netflix. Viacom’s newly acquired Awesomeness produced Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” and Viacom International Studios announced two new series for Amazon earlier this week.

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Meanwhile Paramount Television has generated revenues of nearly $400 million in 2018 with shows including “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” on Amazon and “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Maniac” on Netflix. The segment has 16 more shows have been ordered or are in production for fiscal 2019. Paramount today also set a new multi-picture film deal with Netflix.

When asked about the possibility of Paramount changing up its pay-one window rights and launching its own direct-to-consumer streaming service like many of its rivals, Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos deferred that decision to Viacom. But he said a different scenario seems more likely than Viacom/Paramount launching their own service.

“In not very long, our current deals for pay one will expire and in contrast to years past, for those of us who’ve been in this business for a while where we had a choice essentially between HBO and Showtime and bounced back and forth between those two, when we bring out content to market there will be a lot more players and very aggressive buyers – at least a half a dozen of them. So, we feel really good about being able to come to market with our product…” Gianopulos said.

He pointed out how major studios like Disney (and likely Fox along with it) are pulling their content back onto their own platforms. He said that means Viacom/Paramount content will be more in demand at that point.

“While it is a possibility to build a platform at some point, I think the more likely scenario is we’ll have a pretty fun bidding war going in a very short period of time,” Gianopulos said.