Paramount can use franchises to 'play a different game' than competitors

DENVER – While many streamers are focusing on franchises to boost engagement, Paramount considers itself ahead of the game on that front.

At the StreamTV Show this week, Jeff Shultz, Paramount’s chief strategy officer and chief business development officer, said the word franchise “gets thrown around a lot” in the industry. But from his perspective, franchising is an asset, “not a decision.”

“So calling something a franchise, which is something that some of our competitors do, doesn’t make it a franchise. And Paramount Global is stupid with franchises,” Shultz said in a fireside chat with nScreenMedia’s Colin Dixon. “We are so rich with franchises, and it puts us in a position where we can play a different game than some of our competitors.”

That strategy involves “making really calculated bets” on both the programming and marketing sides “on the things that we know will drive the needle.”

One way Paramount is promoting its franchises is by integrating Showtime content with Paramount+. The merged streaming service will officially debut in the U.S. on June 27.

“Think about it this way, Showtime has hits right? ‘Dexter,’ ‘Billions,’ ‘Yellowjackets’ and then had the rest of the year to sort of fill up with shows that were great but maybe not hits,” Shultz explained. “When you overlay Showtime on top of Paramount+, you’ve got ‘Yellowjackets’ and you’ve got Champions League, we’ve got ‘Spongebob’ for the kids, we’ve got CBS broadcast, [we've got four Paramount theatrical releases this summer that will come quickly to the service]."

“So what you have is an ability to offer that premium value proposition to extend Paramount+ to even more subscribers and the underlying broad content offering proposition to keep them there,” he added. “And we totally think that’s a winner.”

Paramount is also using Pluto TV, its free ad-supported streaming service (FAST), to promote shows from Paramount+. At a StreamTV Show panel on content distribution, Paramount’s EVP of content strategy Amy Kuessner said the first four seasons of “Yellowstone” will be available for free on Pluto throughout the entire month of August.

Verizon and Delta

Shultz also delved into some of the deals Paramount recently made to expand Paramount+’s distribution. Earlier this month, Verizon’s subscription aggregation platform +play introduced a new bundle combining Paramount+ with Netflix.

Prior to that, Paramount inked a distribution deal with Delta in January, and last August it introduced a Paramount+ bundle with Walmart+, Walmart’s premium membership offering.

“Verizon and Delta and Walmart…they’re all the first of their kind, which is pretty cool to say,” Shultz said, noting the +play deal is the first time Netflix and Paramount+ are combined into a third-party bundle.

“[Verizon] launched +play, which is a way for them to make it easy for their customers to subscribe to services, not just video services but for really any recurring billing service,” he said. “Now, they’re in a position to solve that problem about which services do I want to subscribe to, am I overpaying, and then the convenience and the value of bundling.”

As for whether streamers will continue to show up on third party platforms like +play, Shultz expects to see “more action on that front.”

Commenting on the Delta partnership, Shultz said, “So 50 million people fly Delta every year in the United States. And to this point about ‘1923,’ two-thirds of you haven’t even seen it. We’re doing the hardest part already, which is creating hits, but they’re dramatically underexposed.”

With Delta, Paramount is able to offer Paramount+ Premium for free to the airline’s SkyMiles members. The goal of the deal, according to Shultz, is “to create a member relationship with everyone on the plane.”

Furthermore, Delta’s Paramount+ offer is unique in that viewers aren’t just “sampling” the service, “which is what the airline experience has been to-date.”

“Everyone’s going to have access to the entire service and then they’re going to walk off the plane in a free trial. So they’re already going to be a subscriber of Paramount+,” said Shultz. “It’s live on a small number of planes, but it’ll be on north of 700 planes by the end of the year.”