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CES 2020: ViacomCBS Boldly Goes Where None Have Gone Before

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The so-called "streaming wars" are the hot topic at CES 2020, and while several new entrants (like Quibi) are driving huge speculation, CBS (as of December 4, 2019 now ViacomCBS) has been steadily been going where no media company has gone before.

As pioneers in the industry, they have been going direct to consumer since they launched CBS All Access in October 2014. "We've brought churn down every year to the single digits, unlike every other premium service out there," said ViacomCBS chief digital officer Marc DeBevoise. "We've seen a 60% growth in subscribers and a 100% growth in revenue."

Viacom and CBS combined is now the sixth largest internet company in the United States, said DeBevoise. "You've got 200 million users across all of our sites, apps, and platform, and that excludes OTT." He estimates another 50 million OTT viewers. Their brands are extensive, and they'll need the diversity to keep others at bay.

Future Thinking

"[Based on] the research that we've done, we see about 200 million subscriptions up for grabs over the next 3 to 5 years. So there's about 180 million out in the marketplace today, and we see that effectively doubling what we have today. Netflix can't double. Amazon Prime is going to have trouble doubling,"

 "We absolutely take the position it's not a zero-sum game. Netflix doesn't get all the subscribers and nobody else gets any," said DeBevoise. "Or Disney doesn't come in and soak up the subscribers.

 "We're the largest pure content play on the internet. We have the largest individual audience [serving content] through dozens of brands." While other media companies are battling for his viewers on one side, the large tech entities are also trying to grab attention. One strategy: Go to the set-top box.

ViacomCBS's recent carriage deal means CBS All Access is directly offered as an app via Comcast properties. "The one place we haven't launched the service is on an MVPD set top box," DeBevoise said, but Xfinity and X1 subscribers will soon gain access to CBS All Access.

"Already 80% of the public have an SVOD subscription of some kind," said DeBevoise. "That's 3 and 1/2 services, and we already see that number growing."

What is ViacomCBS doing to continue to bring in customers in this increasingly noisy market? "We will have 14 or more original shows on CBS All Access in 2020. A major show every month and a tentpole every quarter, starting with Star Trek: Picard in January." To make it so, fees are $6 monthly or $10 without ads.

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