CBS All Access Will Become an Expanded ‘House of Brands’ Under ViacomCBS

Pluto TV will remain standalone service, according to company source

a sign pointing in different directions
ViacomCBS is expected to reveal more about its streaming strategy during its quarterly earnings call on Feb. 20. Getty Images, ViacomCBS, CBS, PlutoTV

CBS All Access is expected to serve as the anchor of a broad subscription offering from the newly formed ViacomCBS, which is pushing further into both subscription-supported and ad-supported streaming services, a company source told Adweek.

The entertainment giant plans to transform All Access into a “house of brands” that will include other Viacom programming, according to the source, creating a much broader, more robust offering that will feature content and brands from across the recently merged company’s entire portfolio—much like NBCUniversal’s upcoming Peacock and WarnerMedia’s upcoming HBO Max. The branding and potential pricing changes of that streaming service remain unclear.

Pluto TV, the ad-supported streaming platform that Viacom acquired in January 2019, will remain a standalone free service, the source said.

Many of the details have yet to be worked out, but broadly speaking, the company is looking at a free ad-supported tier anchored by Pluto TV, a broad subscription service anchored by All Access, and a premium tier anchored by the premium cable channel Showtime. Company management is focused on determining how to best differentiate its services from other offerings already on the market, the person said.

The company is expected to discuss more about its future streaming plans in its quarterly earnings call with investors the morning of Feb. 20. A CBS spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The merger of Viacom and CBS, which closed in August, brought together a considerable portfolio of both AVOD and SVOD streaming services along with plenty of livestreaming options. But that combination also represented a challenge: namely, determining where programming should go and how the company should streamline or combine its offerings. Viacom brought to the table the ad-supported Pluto TV, along with smaller SVOD services like Bet Networks’ BET+ and Nickelodeon’s Noggin. CBS brought All Access, along with a number of free ad-supported news and sports offerings like CBSN.

CNBC first reported on a new streaming service that ViacomCBS was readying. A company source disputed some of the characterizations in the piece: Paramount’s film library is expected to be a major part of the services, but they won’t be the “first home” for all Paramount films, the person said.

CBS All Access marked a major milestone for CBS when it became the first-ever broadcast network to wade into the streaming waters in 2014. In recent years, the service, helmed by CBS Interactive CEO Marc DeBevoise, has upped its library offerings while investing in a slate of buzzy originals, including two new Star Trek series, a Twilight Zone revival, the dark comedy Why Women Kill and the legal drama The Good Fight, a spinoff of the since-concluded CBS primetime drama The Good Wife. The company this week debuted an interactive true crime drama, Interrogation, starring Peter Sarsgaard.

CBS doesn’t break out the individual number of subscribers to All Access, but said last month that it has more than 10 million customers subscribed to All Access and Showtime combined. The company anticipates those two services will reach 25 million subscribers combined in two years’ time.

The streamlining of the streaming offerings comes amid increased competition from both longtime competitors and new, deep-pocketed legacy brands. NBCUniversal, another broadcast brand, is readying Peacock, a streaming service slated for a national launch in July that will offer a free, ad-supported introductory tier and will charge for access to more programming, including originals. WarnerMedia, meanwhile, is preparing for a May debut of HBO Max, which will have an ad-supported version by 2021.

Just last week, competitor Disney announced that its ad-free streaming service Disney+ had netted 28.6 million subscribers in its first three months.

TV editor Jason Lynch contributed reporting to this article.


@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.
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