When Bob Bakish was named Viacom CEO in December 2016, he began “warehousing” the company’s library content that had been previously licensed to other SVOD services, so that it would be at the ready whenever the company settled on its streaming strategy. Now that the Pluto TV deal has closed (as discussed in this week’s cover story), he’s ready to put those library titles to work once again.
Beginning next month, Viacom expects to add 10 to 15 new linear channels to Pluto, which will be variations on its flagship brands—including MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central—as well as channels focused on specific Viacom shows and franchises. For starters, says Bakish, Viacom will create a pop-up channel featuring its reality series The Hills to promote that show’s revival on MTV this summer, and plans to do the same with classic Blue’s Clues episodes tied to its upcoming Nickelodeon reboot, Blue’s Clues & You.
Viacom will air a full range of “very well-known IP” (intellectual property) on Pluto, says Bakish, including its biggest TV brand, SpongeBob SquarePants, which will also eventually make its way onto the streaming service. However, he emphasizes that Viacom’s cable networks “will continue to be the exclusive domain of our freshest products,” and that anything streaming on Pluto will be at least 18 months old. “The freshest SpongeBob will continue to be in pay TV, but we will be using our catalog of great IP to bring in cord-nevers.”
As its Pluto offerings expand over the year, Viacom will also create Spanish-language versions of its content, both from its own library and Pluto’s third-party partners, for U.S. Hispanic audiences. “That’s an audience that we think is underserved in the digital and streaming marketplace,” says Viacom CFO Wade Davis. From there, Viacom will focus on global markets where “we have big ad sales businesses,” says Davis, including Latin America and Western Europe. Adds Bakish, “We’re really excited about the journey ahead.”