You may have heard that, recently, CBS and its former parent company Viacom got back together after their ugly 2000s divorce. What made them believe they could make a second go at coupleship? Perhaps it’s the whole “streaming wars” thing.
The newly reformed ViacomCBS, as one of its first announcements, says it is looking into pooling all its properties — CBS, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central, and even that free PlutoTV thing, which you didn’t know was a Viacom property until now — into one mega monolith that they can charge mega moolah for. They’re calling it a “‘House of Brands’ product,” but they’ll probably come up with a better name.
You might be thinking, “Isn’t CBS All Access their entry in the streaming wars? And isn’t it doing fine?” CBS All Access was how small-time CBS did business. ViacomCBS bulks up to giant size, and kicks stuff around like Godzilla on Ghidora. It’s a new ballgame! However, getting the family solidly together is going to be a problem.
Until now, Viacom’s strategy was to license their library to other streamers in exclusive deals. A solid chunk of the shows ViacomCBS owned are currently, as a result, somewhere else. And that may not change for a long time…Viacom JUST NOW let HBO Max have South Park, stock and barrel. Netflix holds a deal with Paramount for multiple projects to premiere exclusively with them.
The bigger issue here is that, at $9.99 without ads ($5.99 with), CBS All Access already feels overpriced, given that the only thing really worth watching is Picard. This super-duper streamer will no doubt cost more. But how much are people really willing to pay?
We’ll know the answer soon when HBO Max starts up and proves to the world whether $14.99 is acceptable or not. If it crashes, ViacomCBS may walk back its plans, and then start wondering again, “Why did I marry you?”