Wolk’s Week in Review: VCBSFlix will be called Paramount+, Trump bans new TikTok downloads

TV[R]EV Week In Review
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Well-known industry analyst Alan Wolk is publishing his popular Week In Review columns first on FierceVideo every Friday. This means that FierceVideo readers are the first to get all Wolk's insights as they navigate the fast-moving television business.

Wolk's Week In Review

1. VCBSFlix will be called Paramount+

ViacomCBS finally announced the name of its long-awaited Flix and it’s not going to be CBS All Access Plus, but rather Paramount+. (Their press releases refer to it with the mathematical symbol rather than the word “plus” though more than a few media outlets seem to be ignoring their wishes.)

Not much more was revealed about the new service other than that it will feature new original programming (when that sort of thing can actually get made again), a deep library and Showtime.

Why it matters

The suspicion is that the name was a compromise between Viacom and CBS, sort of the “we’ll name her Paris because that’s where we first met” theory of baby naming. 

Paramount is a fine name; the studio invokes old Hollywood, though I am not sure many people under 50 know that. And “+” seems to be what all the other kids are doing these days, so why not. 

The truth is the service will not survive or fail based on its name but rather on its content, its ease of use, its price point and its availability.

By those standards, Paramount+ (PP? P-Plus?) seems in pretty good shape: they have a solid library of CBS, MTV, VH1, BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon shows from the past 40 years, they’ve struck a deal with Amazon and seem to be in the process of striking one with Roku, so no NBCU-esque drama there, and I strongly doubt that the ad-free version will be as expensive as HBO Max. Meaning they should be in good shape and, with the vast library of “hits from our childhood” be a top choice for older Millennials and younger Gen Xers.

They’ll also be the eighth Flix and, as per a recent announcement by Discovery CEO Dave Zaslav, that number will soon be nine, as he promised that Discovery is going to launch their Flix fairly soon.

Which matters because with nine of these Flix services up and running, along with all of the mega FASTs, it seems that OTT will soon not only have better programming than traditional broadcast and cable TV but a lot more of it. All for considerably less money, which is why we’re finally going to see that “massive wave” of cord cutting happening over the next few years.

What you need to do about it

If you’re VCBS you need to tell us how you’ll be integrating Pluto into the new app. My guess is that it will be a gateway drug of sorts, with older seasons of shows only available on the pay service available as a lure for subscribers. And that advertisers will be able to buy across both platforms, giving VCBS a much larger audience to sell against.

If you’re a consumer, especially one between the ages of 35 and 50, this could be the Flix you’ve been waiting for as it’s got all the shows you spent hours watching back in the day and can now inflict on your own children. Good times await.

And if you’re an editor, you’ll need to make the important decision as to whether it’s “Paramount+,” “ParamountPlus” or “Paramount Plus.” All work for me.

2. Trump bans new TikTok downloads

President Trump announced a ban on downloading the Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat from U.S. app stores beginning Sunday.

Ping and Pong the pandas will also be removed from episodes of “The Brady Kids” cartoons. (Okay not really, but no one would be surprised if they were.)

And “VPN” started trending on Twitter this morning. (That one’s real.)

Why it matters

Ignoring all the many, many, many political ramifications (this isn’t that kind of column) TikTok has become something of a phenomenon during lockdown, the goofy videos producing a new generation of internet celebrities of the sort that used to be found on YouTube.

To wit, TikTok star Addison Rae is set to star in the Freddie Prinze Jr. role in the gender-swapped remake of “She’s All That,” a popular teen movie from the late ’90s.

TikTok seems to fill that gap that Vine once filled and Quibi tried to fill, offering easy to digest yet addictive short form videos, mostly of people lip syncing and dancing. (Though the other day my teenage daughter was preparing a recipe she’d found on TikTok, so clearly it’s expanding. Or chefs are taking up singing and dancing.)

The potential beneficiary of this ban is an LA-based TikTok competitor called Triller, which has already signed up the aforementioned Addison Rae as well as the so-called “Queen of TikTok”, Charli D’Amelio, an influencer with 87 million followers.

It remains to be seen what the fallout will be from the TikTok ban, how long it lasts, who, if anyone, buys the company, and, most important, if Those Fickle Teens will find Triller to be an adequate replacement.

To my ancient eyes the two apps seem to be nearly identical, with many of the same players (down to the ubiquitous Gary Vee) making the same videos, but if you are 15, I am sure they are night and day. 

Regardless, the rapid growth and intense amount of free publicity both apps are receiving means that the short form video landscape is about to look a lot different in the years ahead and that TV has a new farm team to pull from.

What you need to do about it

If you were thinking about downloading TikTok but never got around to it, today would be a really good day to do so.

If you’re interested in short form video and haven’t downloaded Triller, also a good move.

If you’re Zuckerberg and you can take time from destroying the world as we know it, TikTok and Triller seem to be making IGTV irrelevant and I wonder about Instagram as a whole too, if it’s about to go into the “slow leaking balloon” stage along with its sibling Facebook.

If you’re a TV producer and you’re putting together some teen-oriented programming, keep an eye on how well Addison Rae does with her movie. Most YouTube stars did not handle the transition off of YouTube very well, but TikTok is a different beast and its stars may be worth watching for their future potential.

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