Last week Viacom announced their fourth quarter 2019 earnings. (It was the third quarter on the calendar but fourth according to how Viacom does its books.) During that earnings call Viacom once again made it clear that free streaming led by Pluto TV will continue to be a big part of their business after their merger with CBS.
Pluto TV says they see the Pluto TV service as complementary to what Viacom already does. Viacom has recently used Pluto TV not only to make money from older shows and movies but also to promote new movies and programming on its cable networks and in theaters. With the addition of CBS programming there seems to be an easy connection to using Pluto TV to show older episodes and promote CBS All Access as a way to access newer episodes.
Viacom executives went on to say that they feel confident about the future of Pluto TV even with growing competition among free ad-supported streaming services.
“Look, people who are going to be coming to the market, of course, everybody’s going to be on the big three or four platforms. But one of the things Pluto has an extraordinary lead on is that, for years, we have been working on the long tail of distribution, particularly having the Pluto service embedded in devices that sit in the living room,” said Wade Cullen Davis, executive VP and CFO of Viacom.
Pluto TV is built on the model of revenue sharing. This means Viacom does not need to pay up front for its content. Content from Discovery and the BBC, for example, is not something that Viacom needs to pay for up front. Instead, the companies split the revenue from Viacom ads. This allows Viacom to keep Pluto TV free.
Add in Viacom’s back catalog of movies and TV shows and the addition of CBS content and Pluto TV can refresh its content without paying a third party for content.
Viacom also said Pluto TV stands out from the competition in two ways. First, Pluto TV focuses on live content first and then video-on-demand. Second, Pluto TV is available on a huge collection of devices unlike the Roku Channel and Amazon’s IMDb TV, which are only available on a limited number of devices.
The question now is will this pay off. So far it seems to be doing just that as Pluto TV continues to be the leader of free ad-supported streaming services.