When ViacomCBS raised the virtual curtain on its multi-hour showcase for Paramount+ this past Wednesday, a few key elements concerning the conversion of CBS All Access to the company's new mega-content enterprise on March 4 were crystallized for all to ponder.
For starters, expect Paramount+ to follow the same operational pattern as competitors Peacock and HBO Max -- to deliver one format commercial-free at one price and another with limited ad load per hour at a lower price. Upon launch, the commercial-free version will be available at $9.99 per month. Consumers willing to take the other option will have to wait until June to use it at $4.99 a month (one dollar less than the current CBS All Access rate). Expedia, Procter & Gamble and General Motors are among the initial advertisers.
On the matter of original content, 36 new series will debut during Paramount+'s first year, with at least another 20 launching in 2022. Don't be surprised if those numbers dramatically increase next year and beyond. Near the end of the presentation, ViacomCBS executive vice president and chief financial officer Naveen Chopra disclosed the intent to raise the number of original series past current levels "if Paramount+'s results work." Shades of Disney+, which doubled the number of new 2021 series based on its first-year success. ViacomCBS expects to spend $2 billion on Paramount+ content in 2021 and increase the budget to at least $5 billion per year in 2024.
Those original series will fall into two camps: reboots and re-imaginings of classic Paramount movies, CBS titles and chestnuts from ViacomCBS' cable programming services, and franchise spinoffs. What may be the most prolific reboot lineup yet to debut in one place includes Frasier, The Real World, Criminal Minds, iCarly, Behind the Music, Yo! MTV Raps andRugrats. From the Paramount movie catalog alone, look for series versions ofGrease (Rise of the Pink Ladies), Flashdance, The Italian Job, The Parallax View and Love Story (which NBC turned into a short-lived anthology series in 1973).
In addition, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of Nickelodeon's Avatar: The Last Airbender, will produce an assortment of content including series, movies and short subjects under a new animation studio, and Yellowstone co-creator/producer Taylor Sheridan, through his multi-year development contract with ViacomCBS, is set to pull together at least three Paramount+ offshoots of that series, including prequel 1883. Be on the lookout for at least two new Star Trek series as well as a weekly Trevor Noah program and 60 Minutes Plus over the next year. At least one unscripted series will debut each month.
In another development getting major presentation time, BET+ and Showtime's streaming service for smart TV sets and gadgets will not be folded into Paramount+. They will continue as ad-free individual ventures and will in fact be bundled with Paramount+ in near-future promotional campaigns. More than 1.5 million consumers have subscribed to BET+ since its launch 18 months ago, and the amount of first-run content there from Tyler Perry, Tracy Oliver and other creators of color will increase and diversify in the months ahead, promised BET president Scott Mills.
Mills' portion of the presentation also served as the venue for black-ish creator Kenya Barris to sever his multi-program relationship with Netflix and move full-time into the ViacomCBS fold. Staying mum on how much he'll do for ViacomCBS, where and under what production environment, Barris did reveal that his opening effort for Paramount+ will be an anthology series dealing with contemporary relationships.
Many key ViacomCBS executives, led by chairman Shari Redstone and president-chief executive officer Bob Bakish, received camera time during the presentation, originating from a virtual indoor set at Paramount's Hollywood studios. Trailers containing scenes from Paramount+'s original series lineup were the exception, rather than the rule, when compared to the Disney+ showcase two months ago. One impressive trailer promotedHalo, the much-anticipated video game treatment originally scheduled at Showtime and now heading to Paramount+ in early 2022.
One way or another, ViacomCBS' executives made the point that Paramount+ will stand up to its rivals from launch day forward, with more than 30,000 episodes of iconic TV and 2,500 movies supplementing first-run content. "The breath and depth of creative power from this unified company is truly breathtaking," Redstone declared. "We are better positioned to succeed, and we're better in the fundamentals. We have the vision to succeed and grow."
"Our mountain of entertainment is bigger than you think," Bakish declared.
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