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Viacom’s Bakish highlights three-pronged digital strategy

Viacom will take a three-pronged approach to the direct-to-consumer business, including plans for an advertising-supported “front door” branded offering, but has no plans to launch any kind of premium Netflix-style service, according to CEO Bob Bakish.

Viacom president and CEO Bob Bakish

Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG) event in London this morning, Bakish said that Viacom is looking at launching a branded AVOD portal that will draw in viewers by providing them with free digital content. He said that the company sees an opportunity for a “branded front door in the AVOD space” that could “bring people in” and “create awareness”, driving viewers to its broader content offering.

The AVOD offering would be part of a broad three-pronged approach to digital that encompasses niche services built around existing brands, such as the Noggin service that is already provided in the US and Latin America.

Those niche services could also be part of a B2B2C service, he said, citing the example of Amazon Channels, where Viacom has used as a distribution channel in Latin America.

Bakish said emphatically that Viacom would not follow Disney down the path of developing a Netflix-type streaming service because of the massive capital expenditure required to enter that space. “We are not focused on that,” he said.

Bakish has previously spoken about plans to launch a D2C offering focusing on the mobile space. He again referenced what he sees as the relatively untapped potential of mobile distribution as the “most exciting” opportunity for the company at the BPG event, but did not reveal any specific plans for a new mobile-centric platform.

The third prong of the company’s digital strategy is its digital studio initiative, which is focused on creating content for sale to third-party digital distributors including Netflix. Bakish has previously spoken about what he sees as a US$1 billion opportunity to feed episodic content to third-party SVOD services. At the BPG event, he said that the move by companies such as Disney to remove content from Netflix and focus on their own platforms created an opportunity for the likes of Viacom to step in and fill the gap.

Bakish also said that 21st Century Fox’s sale of its entertainment assets to Disney was “a significant positive for Viacom because it highlights to value of owning a TV studio – it shows how valuable these assets are”.

Paramount Studios, he said, had long been an “undervalued asset” in the company , and Viacom intended to nurture it as a vehicle to provide content to meet demand from digital platforms.

While not interested in creating a Netflix rival, Bakish also told his BPG audience in London that a move by the country’s public broadcasters to create their own OTT TV platform would be of interest to Viacom, which owns UK free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5 and its on-demand offering My5.

“We think that’s pretty interesting, and something we are giving some thought to,” he said.