Oct 08, 2021

“The opportunity in streaming is massive and having a strategy that is successful in the U.S. and internationally is absolutely fundamental for ViacomCBS.”

Last month, ViacomCBS reached a deal with Sky to launch SkyShowtime in over 20 European markets—a partnership that will allow the company to rapidly expand its international streaming presence in markets where Paramount+ has yet to launch.

“We’ve been able to align our priorities, which are to roll-out Paramount+ and Pluto TV all over the world to secure our leading position in the AVOD and SVOD landscape,” said Raffaele Annecchino, President and CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International.

Annecchino’s mission is to fuel the company’s new lines of business, including Paramount+ and Pluto TV, with content creation from ViacomCBS’ broadcast and free-to-air networks like CBS and Telefe. 

In an interview from the ViacomCBS video series “Streaming On,” Annecchino shared how the company will expand its international streaming offering to reach consumers all around the globe over the next few years. Below is a condensed version of Annecchino’s chat with “Streaming On” host Dometi Pongo.

Dometi Pongo: Why is it important for ViacomCBS to expand its streaming presence internationally?

Raffaele Annecchino: The opportunity in streaming is massive and having a strategy that is successful in the U.S. and internationally is absolutely fundamental for ViacomCBS. We live more and more in a global world and streaming is the perfect example of that. We are a leading company in the U.S., as well as international. It’s a fundamental asset to secure our winning strategy over the next year. We’ve proven in the past that we are able to create IP that resonates globally: I think about the SHOWTIME(r) content, to Paramount movies, to kids content like Nickelodeon and SpongeBob. The reality is that for months Paramount+ has been traveling all over the world, and with the distribution of our studio content in various markets we have more and more content with the potential to become global IP—that is our objective. The combination of all these assets will make ViacomCBS a unique offer internationally and I'm sure would be the basis of the success of our streaming strategy in the future.

DP: Describe what you do at ViacomCBS to help carry out that strategy?

RA: My mission as president and the CEO of ViacomCBS Networks International is to secure ViacomCBS’ position as one of the leading global media companies today. Our objective is to secure the rollout of our cable and streaming platforms in all the key markets of the world. We will have our services available in more than 60 markets by the end of 2022. The focus for the future is the expansion of our international presence on streaming platforms.

DP: What deals have you worked on over the last year or so to expand the company’s international streaming presence?

RA: One of ViacomCBS’ biggest assets internationally is the great partnerships that we have been building with MVPDs over the last decades. We have great partners in the U.S., Comcast is one of them, and internationally with Sky, Telefonic, and more. What is going to be another element of our success story in streaming is the most transformative approach in these last few months is increasing our partnerships with MVPDs in the streaming world. We’ve been able to align our priorities, which are to roll-out Paramount+ and Pluto TV all over the world to secure our leading position in the AVOD and SVOD world. We have to shift value from our traditional business to streaming.

For example, that’s what we did in the Sky deal which is the most transformative deal that we have done and positions ViacomCBS once more as a leading company is also driving and managing the shift to new business, which are the key pillars of the deal with Sky.

On one hand, we’ve announced the launch of Paramount+ in Italy, the UK, and Germany, which are the three most important markets in Europe. We’re making Paramount+ available to nine million subscribers in 2022—it’s a big win that secures revenue sooner and this is exactly what the industry is expecting once you present a roll-out of a streaming service.

Two, this is fundamental, we’ve been able to repatriate content we’re selling to our partners for Paramount+ and delivering value to our MVPD partners.

Thirdly, it allows us to shift our relationship from our linear distribution channels to streaming, including rights.

Fourth, our position is our strength in the ad sales markets, including those three in Europe. With Sky, we only reinforce the performance of Channel 5 in the UK, as well as accelerate the growth into the FAST world with Pluto TV, which we are launching in Italy and already have in the UK and Germany. The combination of these four pillars makes this deal absolutely transformative. This helps us raise the bar in a streaming world where the competition can become more intense.

DP: What is our competitive advantage in streaming, globally?

RA: This is something that Bob [Bakish, CEO of ViacomCBS] saw early on. We invested in broadcast and free-to-air, because owning Telefe in Argentina or Network 10 in Australia or Channel 5 in the UK has a different reach. Not only is it another platform for the audience to shift from our linear to streaming, but also it’s a great opportunity to deliver premium content to our streaming services. One of the most-watched shows on Paramount+ in Argentina is a spin-off to Master Chef, which was a primetime series on Telefe. One of the most-watched shows in Australia is Five Bedrooms, which was in primetime last year on Network 10 and we moved season 2 to Paramount+.

The strategy allows us to migrate across our ecosystem, it’s a unique opportunity to produce and promote premium content and monetize it at different moments in the lifecycle of the content. We have a brand that resonates all over the world with Paramount+.

We have a global content strategy that is improving every day and the fantastic performance of all the content coming from all the studios. And, we saw more and more the contribution of the local content becoming global. We have the most strategic setup in terms of business model, we are also taking advantage of our partnerships that will now become a critical pillar of our strategy in streaming. We’re transforming what people see as a challenge with our linear business as a great opportunity to grow streaming. The talent we have in our company is aligning the global strategy with local execution and we have great people in all those positions across the board. 

"Content is becoming more and more global. And, we are basically creating an organization that will deliver more and more real benefits from the U.S. to the world."

DP: What content has resonated globally and what local IP are you seeing really taking off?

RA: We have an unparalleled collection of global and local content on Paramount+ in the U.S. and internationally. We have a great content arsenal that includes some of the largest and most valuable collections of entertainment in the world, including the Paramount Pictures films. This strategy of developing global franchises as well as the global formats now becomes hits all over the world. Our plan is to create global content hubs, which will follow the formula of what content has worked in other markets and localize this content for a specific market. Think about the “Shore'' franchise. One of the most-watched shows in Latin America is Acapulco Shore and now we’re going to produce a big number of “Shore” series to serve all the audiences all over the world. Year ago we invested in Portas De Fundos, which will now produce comedies for all of our markets.

We’re going to have SHOWTIME’s Dexter: New Blood premiering soon and we have a unique strategy for Paramount+ originals for our kids content, as well as scripted and unscripted. Yellowstone is one of our hits that’s traveled across borders.

The reason for our success will be our capacity to anticipate the trends.

DP: What types of content are you personally looking forward to?

RA: We’ve been talking a lot about the new global strategy around reality and new kids’ series from Nickelodeon. With kids, iCarly is the latest example of something that’s really resonated. I also have big expectations out of Showtime and the Paramount+ originals, and of course the movies. The combination of scripted, movies, reality, kids, makes the Paramount+ offering both one of the most general and unique out there.

DP: How does functioning as a global production company factor into diversity and inclusion at ViacomCBS overall?

RA: Content is becoming more and more global. And, we are basically creating an organization that will deliver more and more real benefits from the U.S. to the world. The fact that our content teams reside globally will make ViacomCBS a more diverse and inclusive company, because we see that being diverse and inclusive also means to produce content from all over the world. So, to be able to reflect the different cultures and allow people to work together from many different markets is fundamental and is part of our DNA as viral CBS that we should be all proud of.

ViacomCBS invested in this early on, without a real business purpose, back when we aired MTV Shuga in Africa. I was impressed about the role of MTV in Africa when I started more than 20 years ago. It was a time when the AIDS epidemic was an important issue that needed to be addressed and we were doing that with Shuga. The fact MTV was able to cover such an important, dramatic part of life and allow people to understand the importance of preventing AIDS through content is powerful. Today, I think it’s even more relevant because it shows that every story can become a global story. Being able to deliver these stories to global audiences also indicates the responsibility we have to use our content to promote values all over the globe.