It has been an eventful 12 months for executives working at ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group.
The merger of Viacom and CBS last December brought together Viacom’s movie studio Paramount Pictures and cable channels such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET with the CBS broadcast network, Showtime, and CBS All Access.
The deal brought the opportunity for the combined company to streamline operations, including distribution.
“We were probably one of the larger integration rights projects,” says Barry Chamberlain, former president of sales for CBS Studios International and now president of international sales at ViacomCBS Global Distribution. “We quickly got on it and effectively put our group together as early as February this year. There have been a couple of adjustments through the last few months. But we've been pretty set as a distribution organisation and the sales team since the end of February.”
One of the key adjustments was the departure ViacomCBS global distribution and licensing boss Armando Nuñez, who stepped down in June, and handed over to Dan Cohen.
The combined distribution unit now handles distribution for the CBS and Paramount brands. This spans global TV franchises such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS, and Star Trek through to movies such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Transformers and Mission: Impossible. It has 20 offices worldwide, a library of 140,000 episodes of content, and reps 75 scripted series that are currently in active production.
Chamberlain says the merger has been a ‘good fit’ from a distribution perspective, explaining there was little overlap. Viacom, notably, has brought its “incredible feature film library” in the form of Paramount, while “CBS with Showtime and its studio has been a fairly dominant international television distributor of content”.
“It’s really bringing together these great assets to create a unified place to get the best of Hollywood content,” says Chamberlain.
This was enhanced in May when ViacomCBS took a 49% stake in Miramax which has a library of 700-plus titles, including Pulp Fiction, Chicago and Scream.
ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group’s TV content is almost exclusively homegrown, with infrequent acquisitions. “We do look at occasional series to acquire, but only to the extent that it adds real value and doesn't detract from everything that we have,” says Chamberlain.
The integration of the two sales organisations has of course happened against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. “That was a little extra challenge,” says Chamberlain. “But I think we've done a really good job of communicating both internally to our teams about the content and how to adjust to the marketplace, and then just really being in front of our client base through virtual meetings to make sure those connections are solid.”
With lockdown’s driving up TV viewing, Chamberlain says there’s high demand for feature films and quality series.
“Our client base is looking for what they know is going to work, and that is going to draw viewers in.” He cites “tried and trusted, proven franchises” like NCIS and FBI.
“We're not seeing a lot of long-term commitments right now on the free TV side, because they're just trying to figure out how to get through this period. But there's an incredible competition from pay-TV and SVoD for content that really only Hollywood makes, for feature films.”