Content Is Still King: ViacomCBS Touts Paramount Plus' Sports, News and Entertainment

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Content Is Still King: ViacomCBS Touts Paramount Plus' Sports, News and Entertainment

ViacomCBS unveiled plans for its new Paramount Plus streaming service Wednesday, revealing a competitive price point and sharing hours' worth of details about the company's strategy to transition into the streaming era while maintaining a foothold in traditional TV and movies. The company also said it will honor a shortened time period for movies to show exclusively in theaters before they appear on Paramount Plus.

The new streamer's debut got off to an inauspicious start when a virtual presentation to investors was unexpectedly delayed by a half hour, yielding some ridicule from the Twittersphere.

"The inability to stream an event focused on your streaming uh...woof," tweeted media analyst Matthew Ball, summarizing the general sentiment among bemused investors and reporters.

Paramount Plus

Once the dust settled and the constant refresh clicks could cease, a string of company executives and entertainers took to the screen via Paramount Studios in Hollywood to provide new details on Paramount Plus, which launches on March 5. The service will cost $4.99 per month with ads and $9.99 without. The higher tier will also include more content, including more live sports.

The subscription platform is a rebrand and expansion of CBS All Access, which came out in 2014. ViacomCBS president and chief executive officer Bob Bakish first laid out the business case by highlighting the service's sports and news offerings.

"Few other streaming services will offer live sports at this scale," he said, noting that the company will showcase over 1,000 events and matches per year, including NFL games, March Madness, The Masters golf tournament and the UEFA Champions League.

The service will also offer 24-hour live news coverage, including a "60 Minutes Plus" program and content from over 200 local affiliate stations.

Bakish then touted the service's vast TV offering, which he said will carry over 30,000 episodes from ViacomCBS' stable of brands including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central.

"If you like reality TV, Paramount Plus is the place for you," said Bakish, invoking MTV's origination of the genre with "The Real World," which will get a Paramount Plus reboot. Bakish said the service will include over 5,000 reality TV episodes, and in 2021 will launch a new reality series each month.

Bakish said Paramount Plus will have over 7,000 episodes of kids' shows. The company plans to build out already successful franchises like "SpongeBob Squarepants," "Dora the Explorer" and "Rugrats.

Well known franchises will be getting new life on the service as well, including a reboot of "Frasier," a spinoff from the "Halo" video game and "Beavis and Butthead" movie.

Content is King

Paramount Plus will offer over 2,500 films, the company said, including "Forrest Gump," "Indiana Jones," "Clueless," "Anchorman" and "The Godfather."

Optimistic analysts at Goldman Sachs pointed out in a note last month that Paramount Plus's expansive TV offering could be an important differentiator in the scorching hot streaming wars, which has seen a flurry of entrants over the last 18 months and now includes at least 10 viable subscription services on offer.

Paramount Plus' 30,000 episodes will dwarf the 8,000 available on HBO Max and 7,500 on Disney Plus, the analysts wrote.

Given that Paramount was one of the original Hollywood studios, it's only fitting that the service will have over 2,500 films, the company said. These will include a vast selection from both Paramount Pictures and Miramax Films, including "Forrest Gump," "Indiana Jones," "Clueless," "Anchorman" and "The Godfather."

Some yet-to-be-made films will debut exclusively on the service following a relatively short 30-45 day theatrical run, Bakish said. In the coming year these will include "A Quiet Place Part II" and "Mission: Impossible 7."

"I like that they're going to do shorter exclusive windows in theatrical but not eliminating them entirely, like AT&T did with HBO Max," said Laura Martin, media analyst at investment firm Needham.

ViacomCBS also owns ad-supported Pluto TV, which grew its global monthly active users by 80% year-over-year to 43 million, the company reported Wednesday. Bakish said the free service is poised to become a $1 billion line of business and also has potential to funnel users to its new paid service, Paramount Plus.

Some analysts are pessimistic about the new service's chances, however. Brandon Nispel, an equity analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets, penned a note earlier this month suggesting that investors sell their ViacomCBS stock.

"We believe streaming only works if global scale can be achieved, like ~100M subs," he wrote.

ViacomCBS reported on Wednesday that across its current slate of streaming platforms – CBS All Access, Showtime OTT and BET Plus – it has nearly 30 million subscribers. The company said it expects it will reach between 65 and 75 million total subscribers by 2024.

For comparison, Disney Plus has about 95 million and Netflix about 200 million.

A Streaming War Combatant and Arms Dealer

ViacomCBS' pivot from a legacy media company toward a streaming focus isn't without precedent. That playbook has worked well for Disney, whose stock has reached record highs despite most of its business lines being decimated by the pandemic.

But replicating Disney won't be easy. For one, Paramount doesn't have the brand recognition or global distribution to rival that of the House of Mouse, Nispel wrote.

Nor will it help that Paramount Plus is a bit late to the game, as ViacomCBS has been relatively slow to pivot away from its "arms dealer" strategy of supplying content to other streaming companies. Last year the company made almost a quarter of its money from content licensing, according to Bloomberg.

"Every major streaming service has had a monster hit from one of our studios," said Bakish Wednesday. "If we direct that same great content engine back to our own streaming service...we can be successful, and that's exactly what we're setting out to do."

But the tone struck Wednesday by chairman Shari Redstone indicated that although ViacomCBS' streaming ambitions are growing, the company won't be quick to leave traditional media behind.

"We're not about only linear or only streaming; we're about both linear and streaming," she said. "The industry is transitioning but for consumers it's happening at different paces and in different places."

Martin likes that strategy, which she sees as a more sensible approach than Disney's abrupt pivot to streaming.

"There's so much money in linear, so it's better to try to maximize the income from all sources," she said. "This is a better business path compared to Disney, which is all-in on streaming."

Although, in the near term at least, ViacomCBS will be straddling past and present amid the ongoing transition from cable and linear TV to on-demand streaming – which has been happening faster among younger audiences – Redstone underscored that the strategy for ViacomCBS is the same as it's ever been.

"We are a pure-play content company," she told investors, pointing them to her late father's immortal adage: "Content is King."

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

The Creator-To-Podcaster Pipeline Is Ready to Explode

Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at
The Creator-To-Podcaster Pipeline Is Ready to Explode
Evan Xie

It’s no secret that men dominate the podcasting industry. Even as women continue to grow their foothold, men still make up many of the highest-earning podcasts, raking in massive paychecks from ad revenue and striking deals with streaming platforms worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But a new demographic is changing that narrative: Gen-Z female influencers and content creators.

Read more Show less

NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System
Evan Xie

NASA’s footprint in California is growing as the agency prepares for Congress to approve its proposed 2024 budget.

The overall NASA budget swelled 6% from the prior year, JPL deputy director Larry James told dot.LA. He added he sees that as a continuation of the last two presidential administrations’ focus on modernizing and bolstering the nation’s space program.

The money goes largely to existing NASA centers in California, including the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory run with Caltech, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

California remains a hotspot for NASA space activity and investment. In 2021, the agency estimated its economic output impact on the region to be around $15.2 billion. That was far more than its closest competing states, including Texas ($9.3 billion) and Maryland (roughly $8 billion). That same year, NASA reported it employed over 66,000 people in California.

“In general, Congress has been very supportive” of the JPL and NASA’s missions, James said. “It’s generally bipartisan [and] supported by both sides of the aisle. In the last few years in general NASA has been able to have increased budgets.”

There are 41 current missions run by JPL and CalTech, and another 16 scheduled for the future. James added the new budget is “an incredible support for all the missions we want to do.”

The public-private partnership between NASA and local space companies continues to evolve, and the increased budget could be a boon for LA-based developers. Numerous contractors for NASA (including CalTech, which runs the JPL), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman all stand to gain new contracts once the budget is finalized, partly because NASA simply needs the private industry’s help to achieve all its goals.

James said that there was only one JPL mission that wasn’t funded – a mission to send an orbital satellite to survey the surface and interior of Venus, called VERITAS.

NASA Employment and Output ImpactEvan Xie

The Moon and Mars

Much of the money earmarked in the proposed 2024 budget is for crewed missions. Overall, NASA’s asking for $8 billion from Congress to fund lunar exploration missions. As part of this, the majority is earmarked for the upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to land a woman and person of color on the Moon’s south pole.

While there’s a number of high-profile missions the JPL is working on that are focused on Mars, including Mars Sample Return project (which received $949 million in this proposed budget) and Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover, JPL also received significant funding to study the Earth’s climate and behavior.

JPL also got funding for several projects to map our universe. One is the SphereX Near Earth Objects surveyor mission, the goal of which is to use telescopes to “map the entire universe,” James said, adding that the mission was fully funded.

International Space Station

NASA’s also asking for more money to maintain the International Space Station (ISS), which houses a number of projects dedicated to better understanding the Earth’s climate and behavior.

The agency requested roughly $1.3 billion to maintain the ISS. It also is increasing its investment in space flight support, in-space transportation and commercial development of low-earth orbit (LEO). “The ISS is an incredible platform for us,” James said.

James added there are multiple missions outside or on board the ISS now taking data, including EMIT, which launched in July 2022. The EMIT mission studies arid dust sources on the planet using spectroscopy. It uses that data to remodel how mineral dust movement in North and South America might affect the Earth’s temperature changes.

Another ISS mission JPL launched is called ECOSTRESS. The mission sent a thermal radiometer onto the space station in June 2018 to monitor how plants lose water through their leaves, with the goal of figuring out how the terrestrial biosphere reacts to changes in water availability. James said the plan is to “tell you the kind of foliage health around the globe” from space.

One other ISS project is called Cold Atom Lab. It is “an incredible fundamental physics machine,” James said, that’s run by “three Nobel Prize winners as principal investigators on the Space Station.” Cold Atom Lab is a physics experiment geared toward figuring out how quantum phenomena behave in space by cooling atoms with lasers to just below absolute zero degrees.

In the long term, James was optimistic NASA’s imaging projects could lead to more dramatic discoveries. Surveying the makeup of planets’ atmospheres is a project “in the astrophysics domain we’re very excited about,” James said. He added that this imaging could lead to information about life on other planets, or, at the very least, an understanding of why they’re no longer habitable.

Behind Her Empire: Margaret Wishingrad On Creating A Low Sugar Cereal Brand

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Behind Her Empire: Margaret Wishingrad On Creating A Low Sugar Cereal Brand
Provided by BHE

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Three Wishes founder and CEO Margaret Wishingrad talks about creating brand awareness and shares the key component to running a successful business.

Read more Show less