Viacom has said in no uncertain terms that it is not going head-to-head with Netflix, despite making direct-to-consumer moves with new services like SVOD offering MTV Play.
Speaking at the Connected TV World Summit in London last week, Dan Fahy, Viacom International Media Networks’ VP of Commercial and Content Distribution, said that the company is “fundamentally investing in pay TV” and that its move into over-the-top distribution is not a departure from this.
“We’re a partnership-focused company,” said Fahy. “Anything we do in this space needs to not only benefit our audience, but it needs to unlock further value of some sort for our partners.”
For Viacom, Fahy said the case for going direct-to-consumer must fit three criteria: there is a brand need for it; there are core partner benefits; and that the final proposition balances the needs of both audiences and partners.
MTV Play launched in the UK earlier this year as a £3.99 per-month mobile app, offering catch-up programming from MTV, the linear MTV channel, boxsets and digital original series in a “heavily curated experience”.
Fahy explained the service is targeted squarely at an audience that is watching less broadcast TV and broadcast video-on-demand than in the past – particularly the younger end of the channel’s 16-34 age demographic who are “almost consuming no linear”.
“We’ve got an audience that’s watching less broadcast VOD, we’ve got an audience that’s heavily mobile, and an audience that’s being driven by social media,” he said.
“We suddenly realise that MTV’s future audience are doing things that may not lead into MTV, so the question for us was: if we don’t do this, where is our audience in the next five years or 10 years or 15 years?”
MTV Play is mobile-first, accessibly priced and offers the full MTV content experience – though Fahy stressed that “we very deliberately designed MTV Play to fit within our pay TV ecosystem,” with the service available via operator partner EE and MTV’s full content offering still also available via traditional pay providers and Sky’s OTT service Now TV.
“The whole driver for MTV Play is for our audiences and our partners,” said Fahy. “For Viacom, pay TV and with [it] the health of the bundle is paramount and we’re big believers in it. This is not a pivot away. That’s really what drives us – our partnerships and our audiences.”
“We’re not taking on Netflix with this,” he added. “This was one of the trade press headlines when we launched [MTV Play] in January, that we were ‘taking on Netflix’. We’re not.”
Fahy described MTV Play as the latest in a number of OTT and direct-to-consumer products that have grown out of Viacom’s core brands in recent years.
The company has distribution deals in place all over the world for kids service Nick Play, while Viacom-owned UK terrestrial broadcaster Channel 5 moved into subscription video-on-demand last year by taking its preschool programming brand Milkshake! to Amazon Channels with the launch of More Milkshake!
Fahy said that Viacom is also transitioning Channel 5’s on-demand service, My5, to a “partnership model” by opening up the platform to partners like A+E, PBS America and Little Dot Studios.
“The reason why this is a direction that really excites us is because we’ve invested in this distribution platform, it has enormous reach already, but we want to partner with other broadcasters in the market so that they can benefit from our distribution investment and our reach. As we do that, we benefit from the new audience reach that they bring in as well.”