Comcast and ViacomCBS are exploring a global streaming partnership, with the former’s CEO Brian Roberts and the latter’s chairman Shari Redstone and CEO Bob Bakish reportedly meeting in New York last month to discuss a potential alliance.
Both companies are looking to expand their streaming operations into international markets, but know they need to compete with the global giants like Netflix, with its more than 200 million subscriber base, as well as Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, both claiming over 100 million.
Roberts has previously shared his desire to expand Peacock globally, with the streamer, which Comcast owns through NBCUniversal, currently only operating in the US. In April, Comcast reported that Peacock had 42 million sign-ups for its free, ad-supported content, but less than 10 million for its premium SVOD tier.
Comcast also owns Europe-based Sky and its Now streaming platform in the UK.
ViacomCBS, meanwhile, relaunched CBS All Access as Paramount+ this year, with plans to launch in 45 markets by next year. In its Q1 report in May, the company, which also operates Showtime and BET+ streamers, revealed it had added six million total global streaming subscribers in the quarter, with the “significant majority” of those on Paramount+, to reach a total of 36 million paid users.
Its AVOD service Pluto TV also gained around six million new users in the quarter, growing to almost 50 million monthly active users by the end of March, and has been rolling out internationally.
Conversations between Roberts and Redstone as to how they can work together have reportedly been ongoing, say people familiar with the matter, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the New York meeting.
Rumours of a full merger between the two companies have been bubbling for a while and gained new weight following the two US mega deals in May – Amazon’s $8.45bn acquisition of The Handmaid’s Tale prodco MGM and WarnerMedia’s shock merger announcement with Discovery.
However, a streaming partnership between Comcast and ViacomCBS may well be more attractive than a full merger, due to the regulatory barriers they would face, with Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh having previously stated “We like the hand we have and M&A is not an answer.”