Photo: Paramount+ presentation/Screenshot

Paramount Plus lands in Latin America: deep catalog and fresh originals to face Netflix and Disney Plus

In two years, ViacomCBS intends to reach five times the number of subscribers it has today in Brazil, where it is available to Pay-TV partners. How? LABS talked to Mauricio Kotait, general manager of ViacomCBS Brasil

As of today, ViacomCBS is launching its rebranded streaming service, Paramount Plus, in 18 Latin American countries, alongside the U.S. Why did ViacomCBS decide to launch it in Latin America first, over European markets, and what can the region expect from Paramount Plus? LABS reached out to Mauricio Kotait, general manager of ViacomCBS Brasil, to answer that. 

“ViacomCBS has achieved a fantastic strategy, which is to launch on the same day in the American market and Latin America. Brazil and Mexico are important players in the world of streaming. It’s an open, willing, content-consuming market,” he said. 

Mauricio Kotait, general manager at ViacomCBS. Photo: Juan Guerra/Courtesy

According to Kotait, ViacomCBS looked at Latin America aggressively because it understands that its products have high acceptance, and that in Brazil, it will be no different. A study conducted by Whip Media to analyze how Paramount Plus and HBO Max will compete in the region against Netflix and Disney Plus suggests that Kotait is right; by launching earlier in the region, ViacomCBS’ service is better positioned to compete against these streaming apps. 

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According to the report, a combination of diverse content, deep catalogs, and fresh originals, complemented by local content, offers Paramount Plus a massive competitive advantage in Latin America, the second-fastest region for streaming services worldwide. 

Whip Media believes that legacy content would be strong enough for Latin American consumers to follow it to the launch of another platform, such as Paramount Plus and HBO Max; and that they would also be dedicated enough to pay for that content, even with five major streaming platforms in the market. 

Although there is no specific strategy for these legacy contents in the Latin American market, The Godfather trilogy, by Francis Ford Coppola, for example, will be available in the Paramount Plus catalog in Latin America. 

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“Streaming also carries the cinema’s history; it carries the history of television and series. We will have it available for those who like the classic, and for those who like the new [productions]; it is a product deep in content and vast in genres so that it pleases all targets,” says Kotait. “The strategy [for classics] is the same all over the world because they are relevant products all over the world. We will have the classics’ strength in any region.”

But not everyone appreciates cinematic art in streaming. Recently, American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, complained that masterpieces were downgraded to “content” status, in an essay published in Harper magazine. 

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Scorsese might be right. But in a year in which the largest country in Latin America is still experiencing a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and with restrictions imposed by state governments to reduce contagion by the new variant of the coronavirus, there is no way out to the big screen films if they do not migrate to the living rooms. 

Paramount Plus promises to bring movies from the theaters to Brazil’s streaming service a few weeks after the premiere. “For certain titles, this will happen a little earlier or a little later, but the idea is to follow exactly the same process that the American market will follow when launching films,” says Kotait. 

In Brazil, confinement can bring back the first lockdown scenario, when while seeking escape from dystopian reality, Brazilians increased the audience of streaming platforms. A 2020 Nielsen Brasil survey showed that 42.8% of Brazilians watch streaming content daily, while 43.9% do so at least once a week. 

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In two years, ViacomCBS intends to reach five times the number of subscribers it has today in Brazil (Paramount Plus was already available to Brazilians who subscribed to it via pay-TV and broadband operators, such as Claro). The company does not open numbers of users. “What will happen now is that those who already have Paramount Plus will feel a huge impact on the amount of content. And those who don’t have it will feel a huge impact that there is an extremely powerful player coming on the market,” says ViacomCBS Brasil general manager. 

Paramount Plus subscription price is also an important asset: BRL 19.90 per month, a little lower than its main competitors. 

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Will Brazilians pay for it? Kotait cites a homemade and Brazilian production of Ex on the Beach Favela on YouTube. “Why do we find this on YouTube? Because the content is good. And the people that we thought didn’t have access to pay-TV, they do have access. They consume, like, and parody that. Good content will never have a bad impact; it will only grow.”

Market penetration of content for ViacomCBS is higher in the EU than in Latin America

Whip Media’s data shows less of a gap in market penetration of the streamers’ portfolio content in Argentina and Brazil than in Europe. When benchmarked against market leader Netflix, content from WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal, and ViacomCBS is competitive in Latin America (see graph below). 

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The Market Leader Index, charted above, contextualizes the market penetration of each parent company’s initial projected portfolio via a ratio of subject company penetration to Netflix. Graph by Whip Media

The report says that Argentina and Brazil are attracting markets for NBCU and ViacomCBS, in comparison to the EU, which, on average, is more competitive in sampled Latin American countries than in France and Spain.

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The hidden goldmine for ViacomCBS is the depth of its content portfolio. To highlight the critical nature of older content, Whip Media broke down each company’s market penetration (calibrated below to 100%) by consumers exclusively watching relatively “current” content (less than three years old as of July 1st, 2019), those watching “legacy” content only (content aired for the first time over three years before this viewing period start date), and those watching some mix of both. As before, this analysis excludes film titles. (see below)

Viewership of legacy content is relatively high for WarnerMedia, NBCU, and ViacomCBS compared to Netflix, indicating the enduring popularity of their subsidiary brands, and the potential strength of a deep catalog. The more a streaming service rests on its parent company’s legacy content, the less it has to spend on current content to sustain subscriber activity on its platform. 

According to Whip Media’s report, for Paramount Plus, the reliance on older content is stronger in Brazil and Argentina than in the two European markets. “If these streamers are looking to make a quick impact based on the value of their existing portfolio, rather than having to create a rapid and expensive pipeline to establish a foothold, Latin American markets do appear to be an attractive option. When framed in this light, it becomes ever more clear why Latin America is a logical next step for the WarnerMedia, NBCU, and ViacomCBS triad,” says the study. 

Vast menu, but no breaking news or live sports in Latin America for now

Paramount Plus’ menu will be “the great revolution” that the company will bring to Latin America, according to Kotait. That’s because the films and series come from the merger of Viacom (and its channels) and CBS, the largest OTA (over-the-air) television in the United States, in addition to content from SHOWTIME, one of the largest boutiques of content in the American market, coupled with content from Paramount studios and partners. 

“We have Viacom International Studios, where we already produce content in Latin America,” says Kotait – meaning that Paramount Plus intends to launch original content in Brazilian Portuguese. “We are already negotiating and developing a product to launch not only for Brazil but for the whole world. In other words, we are going to export Brazilian content to the world”. Argentina and Mexico are also expected to be content producers for Paramount Plus, according to Kotait. 

Paramount Plus will be the only streaming service working with 24/7 news, live sports, and entertainment in the US. In Brazil, GloboPlay already does that, and due to copyright, the focus of Latin America will be entertainment. “But that does not mean that the product here is smaller than the American product; it is a matter of rights.” 

For Paramount Plus debut in Latin America, ViacomCBS arranged urban interventions in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil. In Sao Paulo, the sidewall of the Ibirapuera Auditorium will serve as a screen for showing a 3-minute trailer with highlights of the main content of Paramount Plus.

Besides, starting today, until the end of March, ViacomCBS will launch a pop-up channel Paramount+ Presents exclusively on Pluto TV, (ViacomCBS’ free streaming service available in Latin America), presenting a preview of what is available in ViacomCBS’s paid streaming. The pop-up channel will feature some episodes of the main titles of the streaming and teasers of what else will be available on Paramount Plus. 

(Last updated at 1:23 pm to fix graph)