TV TATTLE

Paramount+'s "reboot-a-palooza" is "not entirely dumb"

  • Nearly all the 36 projects Paramount+ announced Wednesday are connected to ViacomCBS' vast library of intellectual property, from the Frasier reboot to Road Rules to Fatal Attraction. "Simply put, the big idea behind Paramount+ originals is to use the company’s vast library of intellectual property (or 'IP,' as the cool kids in Hollywood call it) as a nuclear-powered engine for reboots, revivals, and franchise expansions. If you’ve loved it before, Paramount+ is betting you’ll love it again or want even more of it," says Josef Adalian. He adds: "It is almost a guarantee that critics and folks on social media will slam the streamer for leaning too hard on recycling, and from a cultural point of view, there is reason to lament that Hollywood really and truly is now officially out of ideas. And yet, there is a logic to what (ViacomCBS CEO Bob) Bakish is doing here. While ViacomCBS will spend roughly $5 billion making content for Paramount+ over the next few years, its overall budget will still pale next to its bigger streaming rivals, who will shell out up to three or four times as much. So unlike Amazon, Netflix, or HBO Max, it can’t afford to risk $200 million making ten episodes of a completely untested idea. It needs stuff that will grab attention, get buzz, activate die-hard fans — anything to convince consumers, many already annoyed at the dramatic rise in new streaming services, to part with their cash. CBS All Access had modest success doing something similar by obsessively focusing most of its development on new Star Trek franchises. This takes the same idea and applies it to dozens more fandoms connected to ViacomCBS IP. And remember, while streamers — particularly those which have been around — all want to find big hits on the scale of a Stranger Things or Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, non-linear platforms are fine with shows that have relatively small audiences as long as those viewers are passionate enough to subscribe in order to see their desired content. There is another reason relying on reboots could be a smart play for Paramount+ early on. While the streamer will be home to dozens of shows from the ViacomCBS library, in many (maybe even most) cases, it does not have the exclusive streaming rights to those shows. Indeed, in some cases, Paramount+ will share shows with multiple streamers: Inside Amy Schumer, for instance, is also on HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video. But by greenlighting continuations or spinoffs, Paramount+ can tout itself as the best place for superfans of a show to experience the series — not just the reruns, but the latest evolution of That Show You Love. Plus, as other streamers have already demonstrated, reboots and franchise extensions don’t have to suck. WandaVision is one of the most clever shows I’ve seen on TV in years. Saved by the Bell on Peacock got really good reviews, and deservedly so — it is lightyears better than the original."

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    • Paramount+ has to avoid hurting ViacomCBS' lucrative legacy broadcast and cable networks: "Experts warn that while all of that content will serve as a lure to the service, it could slow ViacomCBS’s flow of revenue elsewhere," says Steven Zeitchik. "It might, for instance, deter consumers from keeping their basic cable or Showtime subscriptions. Those consumers could also be dissuaded from watching shows on CBS, where large numbers of eyeballs translate to high ad revenue. ViacomCBS still has a healthy and lucrative legacy business. The company revealed in its earnings report this week that it made $4.1 billion in profit in fiscal 2020, a number constant with the previous year, thanks largely to its traditional television and film operations. Revenue at its cable networks jumped 11 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the previous year. And despite the pandemic, fourth-quarter advertising revenue at its TV division, powered by the highly rated CBS, was also constant, at $1.7 billion. The company’s viewers on CBS, at least, do tend to be older, and the hope is that they will keep tuning in while Paramount Plus attracts younger people who don’t watch the network. The company also must keep affiliates — the roughly 230 independently owned stations in markets such as Atlanta and Phoenix that air its programming — placated despite the fact that their content isn’t in its service, preventing them from sharing in revenues."
    • Paramount+'s streaming plan gets mixed reviews from Wall Street

    TOPICS: Paramount+, CBS All Access, ViacomCBS




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