Viacom isn’t a name as beloved as Disney in Hollywood, but the company’s a substantial player. It’s behind Paramount Pictures and cable networks Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon, among others. And it’s about to join the already crowded streaming wars, aka the fight against Netflix, as the company’s executives have revealed a Viacom streaming service will debut in the fall.
According to Deadline, executives mentioned it during an earnings call, but was fairly short on details:
Like every traditional programmer doing battle with streaming services and mobile and social players of all stripes, Viacom is planning to roll out a direct-to-consumer OTT service. Execs said on the call that it is on track to launch by this fall in the U.S. and will include “tens of thousands of hours” of content, according to CFO Wade Davis said during the call.
In other words, it’ll be Netflix, just with entirely Viacom content. Viacom, as parents and comedy fans know all too well, has never been entirely satisfied with other streaming services, and it may be making this move as it appears Disney will own a 60% stake in Hulu, in addition to ESPN Plus and its still-unnamed Netflix competitor. Most of its cable content is streaming on Hulu at the moment, but why leave your content on a service where your foe makes most of the money?
That said, Viacom is leaping into a suddenly crowded market. In addition to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, a host of streaming services are already online, like CBS All Access, or about to launch in the next year or two, with companies ranging from DC Comics to Apple spending billions to commission new series, dust off old ones, and get into what’s already a bloody fight, having seen the death of NBC’s Seeso and giants like Google struggling to even capture attention. And if that weren’t enough, soon it’ll have to start fighting Netflix for up and coming comedians, as the service is rapidly expanding its stand-up offerings.
It’s fair to argue Viacom is in an unusually strong position; it’s got Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, and it’s done exceptionally well across the board from Spongebob Squarepants to Broad City. But at the same time, launching a streaming service, and supporting it with shows people want to watch, is an expensive activity. Netflix alone spends billions a year just on shows, and that’s not counting the costs of keeping a network supporting millions of subscribers going. Many networks have no choice but to see where streaming takes them, but no matter how big you are, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.