Viacom Expands Efforts To Produce Shows For Streaming Services

Viacom is betting big on streaming video -- even if its own efforts in the space don’t pan out.

The company continues to invest in a new direct-to-consumer platform that it expects to unveil at a later date.

For now, however, Viacom is happy to cooperate with the likes of Netflix, Hulu and YouTube through a "studios” initiative.

In June, the company announced a new business unit called MTV Studios that would create TV shows specifically for third-party streaming services, or even other cable channels. 

MTV Studios is using the network's intellectual property library to develop reboots or spinoffs of classic shows that no longer work for the main MTV channel, but still have some legs, such as a reboot of the animated series “Daria” as well as “The Real World.”

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Apparently Viacom was so pleased with the idea that it is now expanding the concept across the company. Comedy Central and BET will launch their own “studios” soon as well, and will mine their IP library for concepts that could be sold to Netflix, Hulu or elsewhere.

Viacom hopes to turn these production studios into a $1 billion business by 2020.

“The studio initiative is really driven by a confluence of things: First, the large and growing demand from third parties for quality episodic content worldwide, and Viacom’s ownership of broad and deep libraries of IP," Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said on the company’s quarterly earnings call Thursday.

“The mandate for these entities is to create new original content for third-party customers, leveraging existing and new IP -- and it is already beginning to happen,”  Bakish added, noting that Netflix had picked up 59 episodes of a program developed by Nickelodeon’s studios unit.

The company also believes that by licensing original shows to other platforms -- particularly platforms popular with younger consumers that may not currently pay for TV -- can serve to enhance the company’s brand, and retain relevance in a fragmented media environment.

“This initiative is about creating new first-run content. it’s not about the wholesale licensing of library product to third parties,” Bakish said.  "These shows, in addition to being a business in their own right, can serve as promotion for our brands because by far the fullest experience of our brands will continue to be in the pay-TV space.”

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