Paramount Doesn’t Sound Too Concerned About the Writers Strike

"We've been planning for this," said CEO Bob Bakish, while studio CFO Naveen Chopra praised A.I.
Bob Bakish attends the MTV Europe Music Awards 2022 held at PSD Bank Dome on November 13, 2022 in Duesseldorf, Germany
Bob Bakish attends the 2022 MTV Europe Music Awards 2022
(Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Look, Paramount Global President and CEO Bob Bakish likes writers, but he doesn’t sound all that concerned about the WGA strike.

When asked about the writers strike during a conference call with media analysts, Bakish praised the value of the position as “an essential part of creating content” before acknowledging the “pretty big gap” between studios and the WGA. He then got down to business; after all, this was an earnings call.

“We’ve been planning for this,” Bakish said on Thursday, adding that Paramount has “many levers to pull” to offset any major financial impact. Those pulleys include deploying his new productions already in the can, writer-less reality/unscripted programming (“Where we’re definitely a leader”), a large library, and live sports.

“And so we can do more in those areas, if necessary,” Bakish continued. He also pointed to Paramount’s pile of international production, which it’s “been moving to leverage pre-strike anyway.”

With all that, “consumers really won’t notice anything for a while,” Bakish said, citing the exception of late-night, like CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Those shows immediately went dark due to the WGA strike.

“So we’re well-positioned to navigate [the strike],” Bakish said. “In terms of financial impact, it really ultimately depends on duration of strike. But at this point, we think it’s probably slightly dilutive to revenue, flat on OBIDA, and accretive… to cash.” (Translation: Advertising and subscription revenue may slightly dip, operating income will remain the same, and Paramount may actually end up with some extra cash lying around.)

And if all that doesn’t work, Paramount sounds pretty opportunistic on A.I. Bakish’s CFO Naveen Chopra praised the general functionality of artificial intelligence earlier in the call. “We’re even doing things like adopting AI for content localization,” he said, “which by the way, produces some really high-quality results and very, very compelling economic.”

OK, we know you’re not talking about replacing TV and film writers with A.I., but this was probably one of those times where you just don’t bring the concept up at all. Content localization refers to the translating of local-language content for global audiences.

Read all about the company’s Q1 earnings here. The big takeaway there was a massive programming charge mostly tied to the plan to fold Showtime into Paramount+.

Shares in Paramount (PARA) are getting creamed this morning; at the time of this writing, the company’s stock is down more than 23 percent.

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