Mumbrellacast Interview: Beverley McGarvey & Jarrod Villani chat about launching ‘unique’ Paramount+

ViacomCBS will launch its new streaming service Paramount+, this week on 11 August locally. The platform will replace the existing 10 All Access, and represents a more serious attempt to compete with global and local entertainment streaming services than its predecessor.

The company is led across Australia and New Zealand by chief content officer and executive vice president Beverley McGarvey, and chief operating and commercial officer and executive vice president. Jarrod Villani, who join a special episode of the Mumbrellacast this week.

ViacomCBS has already promised a “guaranteed pipeline” of content from overseas, and there have already been local originals announced, and in October, Paramount+ subscribers will get to watch all matches of the A-League and W-League, as well as international matches.

ViacomCBS ANZ co-leads Villani and McGarvey

McGarvey and Villani know that this week’s launch will be about beginning the process of building equity around a brand that hasn’t previously existed in the market, and also doesn’t have the global recognition at the same level as some other streaming services.

“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.

McGarvey is confident that it won’t take too long to build subscribers because once they come and trial the service, they’ll “realise the depth and quality of the content that we have”.

One key advantage that Paramount+ will have is the existing subscriber base from 10 All Access. Villani reveals that those subscribers have already been contacted on how they’ll be shifted over to the new platform and said they’ll experience “very little disruption”, but wouldn’t be drawn on how many paid subs that platform currently has. Globally the company reported streaming revenues from subscriptions of US$481 million in the three months to 30 June 2021.

And so to the primary challenge for Paramount+, or really any new entertainment streaming platform launching this decade. The market is jam-packed with established players such as Netflix and Nine’s Stan, and will also face a challenge from relatively new services like Amazon Prime Video and Foxtel’s Binge.

McGarvey admits that there are already lots of “great streaming services” in Australia, which have global backing and content, and others that have the support of an existing business.

Paramount+ has both of these things, McGarvey says, making it a “unique proposition” as it can tap into a pipeline of content from Showtime, MTV, Nickelodeon and more, and also use Network Ten to “help promote the brand and drive subscribers”.

McGarvey and Villani explain that the other way that Paramount+ will seek to differentiate will be through targeting Australian audiences that are “under-served” by other streaming services.

“Obviously we’re targeting all audiences, particularly family audiences,” McGarvey says. “But [Paramount+] also allows us to make Australian content that really serves particular audiences that may not currently be well-served.

As well as other original content like Spreadsheet, Kings of the Cross, and Five Bedrooms, the service will also have an original movie called ‘6 Festivals‘. “It’s targeted at that older teenage market. It’s about three 15-year-olds doing a bucket list, six Australian festival circuit,” McGarvey adds.

“That is not the sort of thing you see in a lot of other places, and those audiences are not well served. It’s a huge opportunity to dig into some of that content that doesn’t currently exist.”

Of course, there have been well-publicised football broadcast deals that will see the A-League, W-League, other local competitions, plus international matches broadcast across Network Ten and Paramount+.

“The football is incredibly important and it really speaks to our whole-of-business approach,” McGarvey explains. “It emphasises our position in the market, we’ve got an established linear business and a streaming business, and what that means is we can really super-serve those football fans on Paramount+ and appeal to a broader audience [on Ten].

While the A-League doesn’t kick off for a couple of months, ViacomCBS is hopeful that when people subscribe to watch those matches, as well as W-League and Y-League, will stick around when they see what else is on offer. “We think that when people come for the football, they will get a lot [of other value].

“We also believe there’s a lot of growth in football over the next [few] years, and it also really aligns with our brand… obviously with the build-up to the Women’s World Cup in a couple of years and seeing the Matildas do well at the moment. We want to grow and amplify [women’s football].”

Optus Sport is currently looking for a free-to-air broadcast partner for the 2022 Qatar Men’s World Cup, and while Villani refuses to rule out making that play to have matches on Ten, he also says that each sporting proposition will be considered “on a tactical basis” moving forward whether it be football or other sports.

ViacomCBS will also differentiate Paramount+ through a hyper-competitive price point, with the platform available for just $8.99 a month. Members of A-League clubs have been offered discounted memberships as well.

“There’s no doubt that the content available on Paramount+ could demand a much, much higher price point. But we think we are ensuring that we deliver a value proposition to the market. Our focus is on continuing to respect people’s time and hip pocket,” Villani says.

McGarvey adds that it’s “a great, efficient use of your entertainment money”, especially at a time when most people don’t have the opportunity to go to the movies as multiple Australian states remain in lockdown, or continue to experience rolling lockdowns.

Much in the way that lockdowns have helped drive audiences for the Olympics, as Aussies search for entertainment, Paramount+ will launch in that same environment. While McGarvey says pointedly that she wouldn’t wish lockdowns on anyone, she’s also realistic that they could benefit the launch.

“There is an opportunity to have the service sampled when people are looking for a way to be entertained, it’s a good opportunity for us and our audiences. We live in an environment now where you have to be able to pivot and be flexible.”

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Music credit: RetroFuture Clean Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Backbay Lounge Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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