ViacomCBS gets serious about streaming

Newly merged company tackles streaming deficit with international plans for its services.

After falling behind many of its rivals, there are signs that ViacomCBS is starting to take streaming more seriously.

At an investor presentation last week, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish confirmed the company was planning to beef up its existing CBS All Access service, turning it into a "house of brands", with programmes from Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Paramount and Smithsonian Channel all set to join the service.

Within the merged ViacomCBS, CBS All Access will sit inbetween the free Pluto TV service and the premium Showtime streaming platform.

The company also confirmed it's intention to design its service for "audiences around the world".

Until now, especially the Viacom side of the business has had a patchwork of streaming deals and platforms, which has resulted in many of its programmes being found across a whole variety of providers. CBS All Access - launched back in 2014, before many other rival services, has been ticking over with a sole focus on the US market.

Analysis: the situation in the UK

In the US, CBS All Access is gearing up to be the home of all Star Trek TV series and movies, including the new Star Trek: Picard series alongside programmes from MTV and Paramount.

However in the UK, ViacomCBS already has a 'house of brands' streaming service in the form of My5 - which contains programmes from Channel 5, Paramount and Smithsonian Channel, plus some content from third-party broadcasters.

Meanwhile, premium Showtime content is tied up with Sky's linear and on-demand service and is one of the content providers for the new Sky Crime and Sky Comedy channels, while free to use Pluto TV is already available here.

This leaves ViacomCBS with a small area in the middle not yet catered for - rather than launching a whole new service here in an already crowded market, it could opt to build on the existing My5 service - either using the current name or rebranding it and adding a premium option that could house any specially commissioned content for CBS All Access, plus any on-demand content from ViacomCBS UK pay TV channels as existing arrangements with Sky and Virgin Media expire.

CBS and Viacom's previously incoherent streaming policy has allowed other streaming platforms to carry their programmes, so that for example, Nickelodeon programmes have appeared on Netflix, and South Park, made by ViacomCBS, is actually going to be featured on HBO Max in the USA. Such deals mean that it may take some time before they can bring their own programme libary together into one place.

In contrast, rival Disney has been spending the last few years closing channels and ending previous partnerships so that it can bring as much of its content library to Disney+, therefore it's been able to relatively easily roll-out much of its programme library to audiences.