Paramount Global has “what it takes to succeed,” including enough scale, and is pursuing a “disciplined approach to content creation,” non-executive chair Shari Redstone said at the entertainment conglomerate’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.
“The past year has been one of growth and success,” she said at the event, which was webcast and was the first such gathering since the company’s name change in February. Among other things, the company managed to “maximize the power of our content, accelerate our momentum in streaming and deliver quarter after quarter of strong results.”
The company’s name change came in recognition of the “great progress” made since the Viacom-CBS merger and also symbolizes that the firm was “embracing our exciting future,” Redstone said. She also touted the “disciplined approach to content creation” and diversified revenue streams of Paramount, across free and pay models.
On the streaming front, the company chair highlighted Paramount+ as “one of the fastest-growing streaming services in the United States” with one of the largest content libraries. And she emphasized that streaming revenue growth last year came in “well ahead of our projections.”
The company’s film studio also drew praise from Redstone. Paramount Pictures “has delivered five no. 1 movies to-date this year,” the chair highlighted, mentioning the likes of Top Gun: Maverick.
Redstone concluded her remarks by saying that the company has “what it takes to succeed, and we are just getting started.”
At last year’s meeting, Redstone had touted the firm, then known as ViacomCBS, as “one of the kings of content” and argued that since the late 2019 merger that formed the company “we have made great strides toward transforming” the combined business.
Redstone got a question about the company’s scale as some on Wall Street have continued to wonder if it could seek another big deal down the line. “We have a world-class portfolio of assets, and we are executing on a strategy that is driving growth and differentiates us from our competitors,” she said. “As I often say, scale is not about market cap or not even about how much money you spend on content. It is about having enough money to spend on the content that resonates with our audiences and that keeps them wanting more.”
Her conclusion: “We definitely have the scale that we need to compete.” She later repeated: “We 100 percent believe that we have the scale … to succeed and to win.”
The chair also touted the company’s “unparalleled” library with content across platforms, genres and demographics, adding that “we see plenty of upside going forward.”
Meanwhile, the entertainment powerhouse’s president and CEO Bob Bakish answered questions about business trends during the Wednesday gathering. Asked about the competitive streaming space and how Paramount is positioning itself in it, Bakish said “it is not a winner-take-all” market, arguing the firm has a “superior financial outlook” compared with pure-play streamers. In that content, he highlighted that his team has long pursued a mix of free, advertising VOD and subscription VOD streaming models, something traditional streamers are also starting to embrace, a likely reference to Netflix planning to launch an ad tier. Paramount’s strategy ensures it can broaden its addressable market and has seen “real traction,” the CEO said.
Bakish also quoted Redstone’s late father Sumner who used to say “content is king,” saying “it’s really true.” And he argued that Top Gun: Maverick is among the key releases whose success “highlights the power of the Paramount content engine.”
The final question was when the box office could return to its levels seen before the coronavirus pandemic. “I think there is light at the end of the tunnel,” Bakish said. “And that’s going to work out well for us and frankly the industry, because films matter, pure and simple, and we got great ones.” He also touted the Memorial Day record set by Top Gun: Maverick. “It proved that if you made great, great content, they will come,” he said. “Everybody showed up,” which makes the film a “great milestone.”
Paramount had in early May reported that it added 6.3 million global streaming subscribers in the first quarter to top the 62 million mark as of the end of March, up from more than 56 million as of the end of 2021.
Paramount CFO Naveen Chopra recently lauded Warren Buffett’s investment vehicle Berkshire Hathaway for buying a stake worth about $2.6 billion in the company, which owns Paramount Pictures, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Comedy Central and streaming services Paramount+ and Pluto TV, among other assets. Buffett’s stake makes the legendary billionaire one of the largest outside investors in the company. “We’ve always believed there’s a lot of upside, so it’s exciting to see someone with Berkshire’s track record see a lot of that same opportunity,” Chopra told an investor conference.