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CBS All Access, Comedy Central, Nick, Paramount to combine into one streaming service

ViacomCBS announced plans to build a bigger platform

Patrick Stewart as Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard wears a brown civilian suit and brown tie. Photo: Matt Kennedy/CBS
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

Six years after launching CBS All Access, and debuting streaming originals like Star Trek: Picard and Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone, ViacomCBS is ready to snowball the service with all of its properties and channels to create a product that can go toe to toe with Netflix, HBO Max, Peacock, and every other streamer under the sun.

According to a Q4 earnings report, the unnamed service will complement the company’s free Pluto TV platform and premium Showtime Anytime “by adding a broad pay offering, built on the foundation of CBS All Access.” Described as a “‘House of Brands’ product,” the service is expected to suck up content Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Pluto TV, and the Paramount Pictures film library.

ViacomCBS has found luck by mining its back catalogue: As noted in the report, the January premiere of Star Trek: Picard on CBS All Access broke internal records for total streams and subscriber signups. In contrast, ViacomCBS has also relied on other streaming platforms to host shows, specials, and films that may not have found a release otherwise. After picking up unworthy releases from Paramount like The Cloverfield Paradox, Netflix signed a deal with the studio in 2018 to release multiple films. In the past year, multiple Nickelodeon specials, including Rocko’s Modern Life and Invader Zim one-offs, premiered on Netflix instead of Nick proper. MTV’s reboot of Real World actually rolled out on Facebook Watch in 2019.

But this is a new era for the company. On Dec. 4, 2019, after previously being a single company and splitting in the mid-2000s, Viacom and CBS re-merged into one monolithic entity. Suddenly, the film and TV sides of Star Trek were under the same roof. Transformers, Mission: Impossible, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie properties cozied up to Nickelodeon all-stars like Spongebob. The move gave the new company an opportunity to put all of its recognizable IP in one place, and as the Thursday announcement makes clear, that’s the plan.

In an earnings call explaining the decision, a ViacomCBS representative explained the company vision for three tiers of streaming entertainment that customers will buy into: free (and ad-supported, like PlutoTV), premium (like Showtime Anytime), and a middleground known as broad-pay, which is where the new version of CBS All Access fits in. Like the current platform, the streaming service should continue to provide linear TV customers with OTT access while courting standalone subscribers. ViacomCBS hopes that any one platform could lure one viewer base toward another product with exclusive content; as announced on the earnings call, a new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars will bow exclusively on the Showtime Anytime, a play intended to bring new eyes to a less celebrated platform. CBS intends to use the three tiers of its streaming strategy to send customers in every direction.

Currently, CBS All Access costs $5.99/month with adds and $9.99/month without. No pricing plan or launch date was set for the new platform. The big takeaway is more of a reminder of the changing tides: If you’re a media conglomerate in the 2020s, you have an OTT service to be picked up à la carte by viewers who want your shows.

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