ViacomCBS and Charter Communications, the No. 2 U.S. cable operator, have struck a new multi-year carriage deal that includes distribution for streaming services.
The agreement covers linear networks, and streaming outlets like Paramount+, Pluto TV, BET+ and Noggin are earmarked for “future distribution to Spectrum customers,” a press release said. (Spectrum is Charter’s consumer cable and broadband brand.)
Like its traditional TV programming peers, ViacomCBS is managing a delicate balancing act, pursuing direct-to-consumer streaming while also preserving a still-profitable linear business in secular decline. One area of interest also continues to be advertising, as marketers are looking for TV to evolve more quickly into a vehicle with the flexibility and precision of digital media. In announcing the deal, ViacomCBS and Charter said they will also expand their existing joint efforts around addressable media and advanced advertising.
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In the previous renewal cycle, which took place before the reunion of Viacom and CBS in late-2019, Viacom had a tense negotiation with Charter. It warned viewers of a potential Charter blackout before the companies eventually reached an agreement. CBS, which until 2019 was separate from Viacom, set its last renewal with Charter in 2018.
For ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish, who led Viacom prior to its merger with CBS, repairing frayed distribution relationships has been a key strategic objective throughout his tenure. His predecessor at Viacom, Philippe Dauman, incurred significant resentment among pay-TV operators by trying to ram through steep rate increases even as network ratings were starting to slip. Some systems ended up dropping the company’s networks for long periods as a result, putting a squeeze on a key revenue stream.
“We are pleased to have reached a new deal to deliver ViacomCBS’ expansive portfolio of popular brands and premium programming for Spectrum audiences to enjoy, plus greater choice in how they consume our content,” said Ray Hopkins, President, U.S. Network Distribution, ViacomCBS. “Charter is a valued partner, and we look forward to deepening our long-standing relationship.”
Tom Montemagno, EVP of Programming Acquisition for Charter said the deal is an acknowledgement of “the fast-changing pace of the subscription video business.” The pact, he added, will “provide us the flexibilities to adapt for the benefit of our customers while also furthering our strategic interests in the advanced advertising realm and aggregated video store concept with the addition of the streaming apps.”