Can Paramount+ avoid being another Presto? Industry experts weigh in

ViacomCBS has officially launched its new streaming service Paramount+. Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson spoke to marketers and buyers to find out what their expectations of the service are, and what would constitute a successful launch.

While the launch of new ViacomCBS streaming service Paramount+ won’t technically be adding to the number of options available for Aussies (it replaces 10 All Access), it won’t be any less of a question whether this fresh brand will be able to get consumers reaching into their pocket for another streaming service.

Paramount+ goes live today – ViacomCBS chief content officer and executive vice president Beverley McGarvey and chief operating and commercial officer and executive vice president Jarrod Villani are acutely aware that the market is already congested.

Speaking on this week’s Mumbrellacast, McGarvey admits there are already lots of “great streaming services” in Australia, and said this week’s launch is about beginning the process of building equity around a brand that hasn’t previously existed in the market.

“We need to make sure that we start to build our brand in the market and that people know what kind of content we have on the service and really start just building that momentum,” McGarvey says.

Paramount+ began brand building with football broadcast deals ahead of launch

Villani ads that the $8.99 price point is a significant differentiator as well. “There’s no doubt that the content available on Paramount+ could demand a much, much higher price point.”

In terms of how ViacomCBS will judge the launch of Paramount+, McGarvey explains, “It won’t be like getting overnight ratings.”

“We will be assessing all the metrics and the way that all the streaming services do over the coming months; how many people come, how many people come for trial, how many people stay and what level of engagement they have with our content. So we’re really looking forward to digging into all of that.”

Villani also confims that once the football launches, Paramount+ will run a “light ad load” on its live sport coverage and says there’s already been strong interest from advertisers to take up the available spots.

So what should Viacom CBS consider a success? Mumbrella spoke to marketers and media buyers to get their perspective on what will constitute a successful launch, and what ViacomCBS will need to do to really impact the market with Paramount+.

What makes a successful launch

Carat chief investment officer Craig Cooper tells Mumbrella that the proof will be in subscriber numbers, which is something that won’t be able to be measured until free trials end for the many that are likely to try before they buy.

“Network Ten will ultimately be judging the success of Paramount+ on subscriber numbers (outside the free trial). From a consumer POV, great content is what drives subscriptions and ViacomCBS ownership is a massive advantage – they are one of the largest spenders on content across the globe.”

CEO at programmatic marketing company MiQ Digital, Jason Scott, says that tentpole programming can bring in consumers in the short-term, and help greatly with numbers at lunch, but also notes ViacomCBS needs to make sure it backs that up with a deep archive of content.

“To be successful long term, Paramount+ will need to carve its way into being one of the four to five services in a consumer’s portfolio,” he says.

“To achieve that, first and foremost its content needs to appeal enough to the audience to part with more of their hard-earned, or possibly trade out an existing service. That initial content appeal hangs off your tentpole or blockbuster proposition and then you manage your churn via the depth and breadth in your archive.”

UM Melbourne general manager Gareth Nicholls agrees that while blockbusters will draw people in, it’ll be about backing that up.

“To win in a ‘non-loyalist’ category like this, platforms need to have a long and quality pipeline of original and exclusive content that ticks the audience genres depending on interest. If the content doesn’t stack up, people will switch,” he says.

‘Infinite’ starring Mark Wahlberg is exclusively premiering on Paramount+

On top of that, Nicholls believes the other two key yardsticks will be useability and cost. “People demand intuitive and smart navigation,” he says, adding that Paramount+ should work hard to “save us from trawling through vast catalogues of often mediocre viewing experiences.”

Scott concurs that user experience is vital, adding that the competitive $8.99 price point will be key to early success. “Recency and frequency of viewing will deliver value for money for consumers. Content has to be accessible in a modern UI that is intuitive and has real utility for consumers.

“The price position they are expected to launch at puts them in a compelling place versus most of the competition.”

Oxygen 360 managing director Cameron Jurd believes it’s a simpler proposition. “Compelling, exclusive content, mass media awareness and compelling price, it’s that simple in my view,” he says.

Frontier Australia commercial director and head of strategy Dan O’Brien says that ViacomCBS should take heed of streaming services that have launched successfully and repeat the formula with Paramount+.

“All it takes is one good show to get people talking and signing up for a free trial, but keeping audiences on the platform is the real test. Visibility in market also helps and Kayo is a good example of a strong above-the-line launch on day one that helped them gain momentum quickly.

He adds that “good, original content is key to attracting – and retaining – audiences to new streaming platforms.”

Impacting the market longer-term

Cooper also thinks that ViacomCBS need only look to one of its closest competitors to view a rollout that has succeeded with a streaming service alongside a free-to-air network. “It will be interesting to see if Network Ten will support it with locally produced general entertainment and sport (similar to Stan) and if so, audiences will surely follow,” he says.

“If Paramount+ delivers a quality, on-demand content service at a cost-effective price, they will be successful. Of course, a large-scale advertising campaign won’t hurt either!

Scott agrees with the importance of Ten’s assets, and also believes marketing is crucial… “Presuming they will take advantage of distribution access through the ownership of the 10 assets locally, that will help give them a leg up.

“And last but not least clever marketing to bring all of these elements together in a way that drives subscriptions. You have to be in the ‘Hey I am streaming this great series right now’ conversation to get the flywheel going.

He also says that ViacomCBS needs to be patient and “play the long game” even though Paramount+ will be “in the game” straight away thanks to local and global content, and sport.

“The combination of the Viacom CBS owned Network Ten content with a large range of movies and TV shows from the Paramount stable puts them in the game with the local and global mix that means it should have more Australian content than its US-based competitors like Netflix and Disney Plus.

“[It’s a] solid bet to underpin this with the investment into sport via A-League and W-League.”

Local original content includes film ‘6 Festivals’

Jurd says that it would be a mistake on the part of ViacomCBS to “assume the Australian market is aware of Paramount+” and adds that “bundling with value offers from advertisers would be a smart play.” While it’s not an advertiser, it’s worth noting we’ve already seen A-League offer members subscriptions at discounted rates.

“You only have one chance to resonate in this space. Remember Presto? No, of course, you don’t.”

And though most agree that the platform will take some time to build, O’Brien notes that in the end, advertisers will need to be sold on numbers, not just potential. “From a commercial perspective, advertisers are going to need some comfort around the numbers.

“They will want to see and hear news regarding subscription rates before any significant ad dollars flow to the platform. Publishing positive subscription numbers and active user growth quickly will help.”

That includes the ability to “leverage advertiser’s first-party data efficiently,” O’Brien adds. “Finding new ways to database match at scale or smarter ways to inform targeted ad delivery is priority number one now and will be even more so into 2022.”

Of course, there’s the other element that Disney has already tapped into but few other streaming services can; movies. Paramount is one of the world’s biggest movie studios, and Scott says the potential of having new release movies on Paramount+ in Australia is “interesting”.

Finally, O’Brien believes that Aussies won’t just keep signing up to new services forever, and could ultimately become more discerning when searching for value. “What will be interesting to see is if users begin to consolidate subscriptions based on which platforms they see ongoing value from.”

Listen to Zanda Wilson’s full chat with Beverley McGarvey and Jarrod Villani below:


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.