Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish on Wednesday acknowledged high-level conversations with distributors about folding Showtime into Paramount+ in the U.S. He said the talks, which were reported September 13 by The Wall Street Journal, are a no-brainer.
“The media report that you refer to is a rumor coming out of one of our distribution conversations that, quite frankly, if we weren’t having that conversation, you should fire all of us,” Bakish said at Communcacopia 2022. “It’s not like we’ve made a decision that we’re going to do something on such-and-such a date.”
“I guarantee you media will continue to evolve,” he continued, “I guarantee you our product line will continue to evolve and get better.”
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal wrote that Paramount Global is “considering discontinuing its Showtime streaming service and shifting its content into Paramount+.” Talks are “still early,” the newspaper cautioned. Showtime content is already within Paramount+ in some international markets.
Paramount Global brought up the idea of shuttering Showtime with “at least one major pay-TV partner,” the Journal reported, but to pull that one off Paramount Global may have to offer incentives to cable providers. Bakish today acknowledged the complication of handling such deals, which have varying start and end times but tend to run for three years. Paramount+ and Showtime “have very little overlap” in subscriber bases, he added.
Folding Showtime OTT into Paramount+ could cut costs, which is the new strategy in the streaming wars. “Niche streamers are having a tough go at it in their head-to-head matchups with the massive content budgets of the major services,” Steven Cahall of Wells Fargo noted in his Wednesday morning newsletter.
Cahall opined that with this potential move, Paramount Global would be “looking to get ahead” of a combined HBO Max/Discovery+. They’ve got the time: Warner Bros. Discovery will not combine its marquee streaming services until Summer 2023. But do they have the customers?
At the end of the April-June quarter, Paramount+ had 43 million subscribers with another 20 million in across direct-to-consumer platforms like Showtime, BET+, and Noggin. While the vast majority of those are for Showtime, Paramount Global does not break out that service’s subscribers, streaming or linear. Paramount+ added 5.2 million subscribers in the quarter, but the combination of Showtime, BET+, and Noggin added only 300,000 (not including the big losses in Russia).
HBO, HBO Max, and Discovery+ combined for 92.1 million global subscribers. So it’s not exactly a neck-and-neck race, but Paramount is pushing — hard. Last month, the company made a deal with Walmart to include Paramount+ for free within the Walmart+ subscription service. Two weeks later, Paramount Global announced a new bundle opportunity for Showtime programming and Paramount+.
Essentially, the Showtime OTT service can now be included within the broader (and much bigger) Paramount+ app; they even threw in a promotional price. It was a pretty overdue option, and perhaps a set up for the inevitable greater change.
“The Paramount+ with Showtime bundle offers consumers unprecedented value by providing one of the broadest content libraries in streaming at one of the lowest prices in the marketplace,” Tom Ryan, president and CEO of Paramount Global Streaming, said in a statement at the time. “This singular user experience streamlines sign-up and enhances discovery, and this lower price will allow more households to enjoy this exceptional combined entertainment offering.”
Paramount has previously stated a goal of having 100 million global streaming subscribers by 2024.