Paramount has been explaining how its Paramount Plus SVOD offering, the My5 BVOD service from terrestrial broadcaster Channel 5, and the leading FAST platform Pluto TV, will fit together in the UK as a streaming portfolio, and also how the company globally intends to hit its target for 100M streaming subscribers by 2024. With Paramount Plus launching in the UK later this month, Dan Fahy, SVP Streaming, UK at Paramount, told Connected TV World Summit in May that SVOD is a distinct market of its own, ready to be served by Paramount Plus, and My5 addresses the bulk of UK homes with terrestrial, cable or satellite connections that engage with free public broadcasting, whereas Pluto TV addresses the free portion of the market that no longer has a broadcast connection and relies entirely on streaming for its television. By his estimation, that IP-only market is 3 million homes and will rise to 10 million by 2030.
“The IP-only homes tend to be VOD-first and especially SVOD-first, and Pluto TV complements this. Pluto TV is almost tracking SVOD penetration and consumption. In the U.S., about 80% of Pluto TV users are also paid streaming users and we see Pluto TV and Paramount Plus being highly complementary, and we see Pluto TV and My5 playing in distinct parts of the [free] market, albeit with overlap.”
Pluto TV and My5 differ in another important respect: while My5 is, like all BVOD services, the best of the output from the broadcaster, in streamed form, Pluto TV is an aggregation of content from multiple content providers, so has a large third-party input. No single channel dominates consumption on Pluto TV. Fahy revealed that no channel has more than 6% of viewing share-of-time on the platform, with each of the streamed linear channels (FAST channels) deliberately focused on a specific programme, genre or cohort.
“Pluto TV is good at taking known IP (intellectual property) and [content] franchises that might not be recent and may have seen their best days five or seven years ago and puts them onto a platform and packages them in a fun and creative way and gets them into those homes that have ditched a broadcast connection,” Fahy explains. “It is a great way to build back some visibility that is perhaps lost on linear broadcast, and it is a chance to monetise content that content owners have invested heavily into, but which is sitting on the shelf.”
Reflecting its focus on a linear experience, Pluto TV also mirrors the typical advertising model seen on broadcast TV – which means you have ad breaks every X minutes and if someone joins a Pluto TV streamed linear channel, they are not presented immediately with pre-roll ads but instead see whatever is playing out at the time. If the last ad break has just finished, they will not see an ad until the next scheduled ad break.
The openness of Pluto TV is key to its business and go-to-market model. It is viewed by Paramount Global as a platform, and not a platform for Paramount content but one where multiple content owners live, although it does host Paramount programming within that diversity (Channel 5 has created five branded FAST channels on Pluto TV this year, for example). Fahy made it clear that his company welcomes other broadcasters coming onboard, “if they want to get into FAST”. He added: “They can come and partner with us because we’ve done lots of the hard work, investing over the years in the platform, the ad-tech and integration with device partners. This is a key calling card for Pluto TV.”
Paramount Plus is focused on Paramount’s own content, including a tranche of Originals. But what does unite all three services is a commitment to a muti-genre content offering – and Paramount Plus is going to arrive in the UK with feature films, premium scripted, reality, comedy, kids and music, among other things (and anything between 8,000 and 10,000 hours of content). Another common denominator in the UK is ad sales representation: Sky Media sells ads on behalf of Paramount across its broadcast TV channels, My5 and Pluto TV (although Pluto TV is also sold programmatically via other partners).
The Connected TV Summit discussion took a closer look at Paramount Plus and it’s go-to-market strategy. This will be made available via Pay TV onboarding and indeed hard bundling – with the new SVOD service bundled with Sky Cinema in the UK, for example. The service will be taken to Germany and Italy in partnership with Sky, too, and into France in collaboration with Canal Plus. These Pay TV operator distribution partnerships will help drive scale.
“We have always been very partnerships-focused, and there are lots of advantages to working with partners [in the streaming space] – it lowers the cost of acquisition because you are sharing the marketing, and churn is lower on these [partner Pay TV] platforms. There is lots to like about it [distribution partnerships],” Fahy explained.
Paramount is focused on the non-Pay TV homes market for Paramount Plus, too (of course), and will harness partnerships with the well-known connected TV and Smart TV device platforms to get the app carried and surfaced in this ‘pure D2C’ environment. And as Fahy points out, “One of the great things about Paramount Plus is that it brings the richness of content that was previously in the domain of Pay TV and is now packaged for the first time as a standalone offer.”
Asked by interviewer Richard Broughton, Research Director at Ampere Analysis, how the media group intends to reach its target of 100m global streaming subscribers by 2024 [a target shared in February this year, and raised from the 65-75M that Paramount forecast in 2021], Fahy pointed to how the company “is leveraging the whole business into streaming, and leveraging streaming back into our business”. Concrete examples of how content is exploited in more windows include Sonic the Hedgehog 2, whose theatrical release generated significant streaming volumes for the original Sonic story. Now a forthcoming Sonic 3 movie will be accompanied by a kid’s animated series that will run on Nickelodeon across linear TV and then go into Paramount Plus.
Franchise invigoration (another example given is the launch of a kid’s animated series for Transformers) and Originals are key parts of the Paramount Global growth strategy, and cross-promotion is viewed as a natural advantage when you operate across broadcast TV and streaming, both paid and free. “We have this flywheel from theatrical to linear and streaming, and back the other way,” Fahy declared. We don’t see our current business as an anchor to streaming but as a lever.”