Paramount Global's flagship streaming service Paramount+ added 4.1 million subscribers during the first three months of the year, helping to bring its total customer count to 60 million streaming accounts around the world, the company revealed on Thursday.
The data point was released as part of Paramount's first quarter earnings for the year, which said the company's free, ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV also enjoyed continued growth momentum and now reaches more than 80 million monthly active users (MAUs) around the globe.
"Paramount continues to demonstrate the strength of its content engine, driving momentum across streaming, television and theatrical," Bob Bakish, the president and CEO of Paramount Global, said in a statement. He continued that Paramount's traditional broadcast television network, CBS, was also part of the equation, in that it continued to offer highly-sought programming that earned it the number one spot on network television for 15 straight years.
"Looking ahead, we are focused on continuing to drive market-leading streaming growth while navigating a dynamic macroeconomic environment," Bakish said.
Like other media companies, Paramount Global has struggled with a recent softening in the advertiser market that has seen companies reduce their marketing budgets for commercials on traditional television. The pullback caused Paramount Global to report a 1% year-over-year loss of revenue during Q1 2023, with the company pulling in $7.265 billion in total revenue, down from $7.328 billion reported during Q1 2022.
Much of the loss was attributed to its TV media sector, which includes CBS and its MTV Networks cable channels like Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. Despite this, traditional TV continues to be Paramount's biggest moneymaker, with the media sector pulling in $5.193 billion during Q1 2023, an 8% decline compared to the prior year. Paramount attributed the loss to ongoing weakness in the ad market and fewer National Football League (NFL) games aired on CBS.
Some of that loss was offset by a 39% gain in revenue from Paramount's direct-to-consumer products, which include Paramount+, the streaming version of Showtime, Pluto TV, BET+ and its SkyShowtime joint venture with Comcast. Revenue from streaming services brought in $1.510 billion during the quarter, a 39% increase compared to last year. Subscription revenue accounted for most of its direct-to-consumer revenue, which was reported at $1.112 billion, up 50% compared to Q1 2022.
Paramount said its streaming services were fueled by high-demand content, including a spin-off of its popular cable drama "Yellowstone" called "1923," which began streaming on Paramount+ late last year. The creator and showrunner of 1923, actor Taylor Sheridan, has agreements with Paramount for several other dramas that stream exclusively on Paramount+, including "Mayor of Kingstown," "1883" and "Tulsa King."
Executives said Paramount+ was also helped by the distribution of last summer's theatrical blockbuster "Top Gun: Maverick," which became available to stream around Christmas of last year, as well as several NFL playoff games that were aired by CBS and streamed on Paramount+ in January. On a conference call with investors Thursday Bakish said a planned relaunch of the Paramount+ brand as Paramount+ with Showtime will occur this summer, and will include a price increase that has yet to be announced.
At Pluto TV, streaming hours grew 35% during Q1 2023 compared to last year, which helped Paramount earn $398 million from its direct-to-consumer advertising products, a year-over-year increase of 15% (some subscription tiers of Paramount+, including one offered for free to Walmart+ members, contain advertisements).
On the Thursday morning conference call, Paramount Global Chief Financial Officer Naveen Chopra said Pluto TV’s milestone of 80 million monthly active users represented continued interest in the free streaming service. Moving forward, Chopra said Pluto TV will stop reporting MAU data for Pluto TV and instead focus on the number of its engaged users.