Viacom says U.S. mobile streaming deal coming this year

CEO Bob Bakish’s comments seem to suggest that Viacom’s direct-to-consumer product will be ad-supported. (Ben Munson)

Following its mobile streaming deal in Latin America with Telefonica, Viacom will have a similar deal for U.S. mobile subscribers in the near future.

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference, didn’t specify with which U.S. operator Viacom is speaking but did indicate that a mobile streaming deal was in the works.

“We’re also in a very interesting conversation here in the U.S. right now about bringing our brands to mobile and I believe that will happen in fiscal ’18 as well,” said Bakish.

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The loose timeline for a mobile streaming deal in the U.S. expands somewhat on comments that Bakish made earlier this month during Viacom’s most recent earnings call.

“It’s really the first in what we believe will be a series of many where we unlock that platform to drive incremental reach for our brands and incremental monetization,” said Bakish. “It’s worth noting that we’re in numerous conversations similar to this all around the world and we’re in conversations with multiple carriers within the U.S.”

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Bakish said that the Telefonica deal is similar to existing pay-TV distribution agreements since it’s also monetized on a per-subscriber basis.

“I’m thrilled to be talking about Telefonica, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg,” said Bakish.

Bakish today also discussed Viacom’s upcoming launch of a direct-to-consumer service. He said that a few years back, Viacom began pulling back its programming from third-party licensing deals in order to strengthen the company’s relationships with providers, but also to position Viacom for a streaming service launch.

“Later in the year, you’ll hear about a product that leverages those assets which includes over 10,000 hours of library product that we’re going to implement on a direct-to-consumer basis in a differentiated way that we believe leverages not only our library assets but our ad sales capabilities. And it’s complementary to what we’re doing in the MVPD space,” Bakish said. “I realize that sounds kind of cryptic but it’s an opportunity we’re very excited about and you’ll hear more about it later in the year.”

Bakish’s comments seem to suggest that Viacom’s direct-to-consumer product will be ad-supported. Whether that makes it free to stream like CBSN, or a subscription service with limited commercials like Hulu, is unclear at this point.