ViacomCBS, like other TV-centric companies, has
trimmed back double-digit-percentage advertising losses from earlier this year to more modest single-digit declines in its third-quarter financial period.Company-wide
advertising -- while still affected by issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic -- sank 6% to $2.19 billion in the July through September period. This is an improvement when looking at the last nine
months, which have seen an 18% decline to $6.6 billion.
In the second quarter of this year, advertising for CBS Television Network and ViacomCBS cable networks sank 27% to $1.9
billion due to issues around the pandemic.
Political advertising has been a positive factor in the most current period, especially at CBS-owned TV stations. At its TV
Entertainment unit -- where CBS Television Network, and its stations reside -- total advertising was down 1% to $1.05 billion.
Other positives for the company include affiliate
fee gains of 25%, in reverse compensation (from TV station affiliates) and retransmission fees (from traditional pay TV providers) as well as higher subscription streaming revenue (from virtual pay TV
Other businesses did not perform as well.
Content licensing was down 35% (to $1.2 billion) compared to a year before due to pandemic-related
and program timing issues. Theatrical revenue fromParamount Pictures posted just $6 million, due to slow return of movie theater business re-opening.
On the positive front,
ViacomCBS domestic streaming subscribers reached 17.9 million from its CBS All Access/Showtime platforms -- 72% higher than a year ago. ViacomCBS’ free streaming service, Pluto TV witnessed an
increase in monthly active users -- 57% higher to 28.4 million.
Domestic streaming and digital video revenue increased to $636 million -- up 56% year-over-year, driven by 78%
growth in subscription streaming revenue and strong double-digit digital video advertising growth.
Analysts estimates total ViacomCBS streaming revenue to come in at $2.5
billion for 2020.
At the same time, Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger questions some internal streaming trends, including for CBS All Access/Showtime (soon to be
Paramount+), which reported 17.9 million subscribers:
“How many of these subs are double-counted (bundled in with Showtime), and more
importantly, [what’s] the longer-term differentiation and value proposition?”