Viacom – owners of networks like Comedy Central. Nickelodeon, and MTV – is preparing to launch its own streaming service in fall 2018. This isn’t too surprising really, as it seems every big media giant wants its piece of the streaming pie. Netflix remains the preeminent streaming service – both in the U.S. and worldwide – having gotten in back on the ground floor, when streaming was still new. Their closest competitors are Amazon Prime and Hulu, the latter of which is owned by gigantic media corporations Disney, 21st Century FOX, Time Warner, and Comcast.
Beyond the big three, there sits services like CBS All Access and HBO Now, which allow subscribers to watch all current shows – and a library of past content – as quickly as the night of airing. CBS also offers a live feed of their broadcast network, and the live TV field is itself densely populated by Playstation Vue, Youtube TV, and Hulu’s live offering. More niche services include things like horror streamer Shudder, and wrestling provider WWE Network. Disney is of course also set to launch its own branded service in 2019, along with a separate ESPN-branded service.
Now, Deadline reports that Viacom will soon throw its sizable hat into the streaming ring, with plans to launch its own service in the fall. The news was revealed on an earnings call by Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. Viacom is readying a direct to consumer, over the top service, a move which stands in fairly stark contrast to the company’s position on streaming only one year ago.
In February 2017, Viacom abruptly removed most of its programming from Hulu, which annoyed many fans who used the service to watch next day airings of The Daily Show and other recently aired Viacom shows. At the time, Bakish asserted that the move was an attempt to focus back on the traditional cable subscription model, as well as placate advertisers. While some Viacom shows were subsequently offered for free on their respective network’s official website, viewers now had to put up with extensive commercial breaks, which many avoided by using Hulu’s ad-free tier.
That said, the fact that Viacom now looks to cut out the cable companies and charge headlong into the direct to consumer market seems like a big change to their mindset in a short time. Bakish downplayed the magnitude of the move somewhat during the call, saying “We do not view this as a substitute product. We view this as a complement.” Still, if Viacom’s shows can be obtained independently of cable, it may likely lead even more people to drop their traditional TV package. Further details on how Viacom’s service have yet to be revealed though, so it’s possible they’ve built in some kind of incentive not to quit cable.
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