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ViacomCBS Takes Aim at Streaming Market with Paramount Plus Launch

Media powerhouse ViacomCBS is gearing up to enter the streaming fray in earnest with the upcoming launch of Paramount Plus. This supersized streaming service rebrands and expands the company‘s CBS All Access offering with a mountain of on-demand content and live programming.

Paramount Plus aims to compete head-on with industry pioneers like Netflix and Disney+, as well as newer arrivals such as HBO Max and Peacock. Can ViacomCBS‘s iconic brands and extensive library help Paramount Plus thrive in an increasingly crowded market? Let‘s take a deep dive into their streaming strategy.

ViacomCBS: A Content Behemoth

To understand Paramount Plus, we first need to understand ViacomCBS. This media titan was formed in 2019 after a merger between CBS Corporation and Viacom. The combined company owns a vast array of broadcast, cable and streaming assets:

  • The CBS Television Network – including local affiliates, CBS Sports, CBS News, and CBS Television Studios
  • Cable networks like MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, Paramount Network
  • Film studio Paramount Pictures
  • Publisher Simon & Schuster
  • Streaming services CBS All Access, Showtime, Pluto TV

This content empire allows ViacomCBS to produce and distribute programming across every genre – from news and sports to movies, comedies and dramas. The company reported over $27 billion in revenue in 2020. However, ViacomCBS counts Netflix and other digital disruptors as competitors.

CEO Bob Bakish believes Paramount Plus is crucial to combating cord-cutting and directly monetizing ViacomCBS‘s huge content pipeline for the streaming era. Let‘s analyze what the service will offer.

Introducing Paramount Plus

Paramount Plus will officially launch in the US and parts of Latin America on March 4th, 2021. It massively expands the content library of the existing CBS All Access service across movies, TV series, originals, sports and news.

Some key details on what‘s in store:

  • 30,000+ TV show episodes – from Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, Smithsonian Channel and more
  • 2,500+ movies – ranging from classics like Indiana Jones to recent hits like A Quiet Place
  • Live sports – NFL games, NCAA basketball, PGA golf, UEFA soccer and more
  • News – CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, CBS This Morning and local affiliates
  • Originals – such as Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Fight, Why Women Kill
  • Kids and family – SpongeBob, Paw Patrol, Avatar: The Last Airbender
Paramount Plus Netflix HBO Max Disney+
30,000+ episodes 3,000+ titles 10,000+ hours 7,300+ episodes
2,500+ movies 4,000+ movies 2,000+ movies 500+ movies
Live sports None None None
News programs None None None

This huge vault of content gives Paramount Plus tremendous variety. News and sports provide a unique edge over rival services. Let‘s now compare how Paramount Plus sizes up on other key metrics.

Paramount Plus vs. The Competition

How does Paramount Plus stack against Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+ and other big streamers? Here‘s a head-to-head look:


Paramount Plus will have two tiers:

  • Essential with ads: ~$5-7/month (projected)
  • Premium without ads: ~$9-10/month

Netflix‘s cheapest plan is $8.99/month, while HBO Max comes in at $14.99/month. Paramount is pricing competitively.

Original Content

Netflix spent $17 billion on content in 2020, far outpacing all rivals. But Paramount will leverage franchises like Star Trek, plus its cable networks and studios, to launch originals. Disney+ also finds success with Marvel and Star Wars properties.

Device Support

Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ are available on all major platforms. Paramount Plus will likely match them here over time.

Mobile Experience

Netflix and YouTube lead here, though services are improving offline downloads and mobile layouts. Paramount can optimize its apps to match the top mobile experiences.

Brand Recognition

Paramount has a century of audience recognition. Combined with ViacomCBS‘s portfolio of household names, it has strong branding potential.

The verdict? While newer than category leaders, Paramount Plus brings competitive differentiation with its live sports and news. ViacomCBS‘s content library depth, production infrastructure, and brand equity also set up Paramount Plus nicely if its execution delivers a strong user experience.

Driving Paramount Plus Success

Launching Paramount Plus is just the first step. ViacomCBS must then drive customer acquisition and retention through savvy marketing and offering a polished product. Here are key factors that will determine the service‘s success:

Pricing and Distribution

Attractive pricing and bundles will help penetration. Distribution via pay TV partners could also convert existing subscribers. Offering annual plans with discounts can incentivize retention.

Content Pipeline

A steady drumbeat of fresh originals, spun off from ViacomCBS IP like South Park, can continuously bring old and new subscribers in. Sports rights renewals will maintain Paramount Plus‘s edge.


Tie-ups with platforms like Roku and mobile carriers will expand Paramount Plus availability. Cross-promotions with Pluto TV and Showtime add synergy.

Ad Strategy

Serving contextual, relevant ads on the lower pricing tier will boost ARPU. But Paramount must avoid overloading users with excessive commercials.


A reliable, high-performance streaming infrastructure is essential, especially for live events. Offline viewing and 4K/HDR support adds value.

Of course, Paramount Plus will also need Hollywood magic – compelling characters, stories, and worlds that capture viewers‘ imaginations. ViacomCBS certainly has the creative chops to deliver here if they leverage capabilities across the company.

What Industry Experts Are Saying

According to PwC‘s entertainment boss Phil Contrino, Paramount Plus represents a "bold move" by ViacomCBS. But he says pricing will be critical given average subscriber acquisition costs of $90 per user in 2020.

"Consumers have never had more choice, and retention becomes more challenging," Contrino told CNBC. "Hollywood is increasingly competing against short-form user-generated content."

LightShed analyst Rich Greenfield notes that ViacomCBS offered little specificity around projected subscribers or content spending for Paramount Plus. But he believes the service still has breakout potential.

"Paramount+ has a huge advantage given how much original IP ViacomCBS owns to drive subscribers," Greenfield stated. "They have an opportunity to take share in the global streaming wars, but execution will be critical."

Morningstar analyst Neil Macker emphasizes the importance of customer experience saying, "If its user interface and content organization isn‘t good, people will just gravitate to services that execute better."

Overall, experts applaud ViacomCBS‘s ambitious move but acknowledge the competitive challenges it faces. Differentiation through live sports and news gives Paramount Plus a boost. But a frictionless viewing experience across devices may ultimately determine if it joins the upper echelon of top-tier streamers.

The Final Verdict

Paramount Plus enters a streaming segment fraught with rivalry. But thanks to ViacomCBS‘s vast content vault and production ecosystem, it has tools to contend. Tie this in with diverse pricing tiers, live programming and the Paramount heritage, and the ingredients for success are there.

Of course, ViacomCBS must now deliver a polished, intuitive product that delights viewers. Strong marketing and distribution via bundles and partnerships will also be crucial. But Paramount Plus‘s appeal to mass audiences gives it viability. This is especially true in an expanding market, where more services can thrive.

While it faces fierce competition, Paramount Plus brings unique advantages that make ViacomCBS a legit streaming player. The battle for subscribers will rage on, but Paramount Plus looks primed to hold its own. The streaming wars have a major new combatant!


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