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Paramount CEO: You Have ‘to Have the Best Sports’ to Compete on Linear, Streaming; NFL, Big Ten Deals Will Pay Off

Stephen Silver

There’s no question that the most popular property on TV is the NFL. Every week between mid-September and early February, the ratings — whether broadcast, cable, or streaming — are dominated by NFL games. That’s especially the case this year, with rating surges reported nearly across the board for the first week of the 2022 NFL season.

Speaking this week at a Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology Conference, the CEO of Paramount Global, Bob Bakish, talked about how important the NFL has been for the company, which offers NFL games on CBS and Paramount+. Paramount has also created an innovative series of alternative broadcasts on Nickelodeon that feature commentary especially for children, complete with the cable channel’s signature slime as well.

“We’re very fortunate in that we have the NFL,” Bakish said. “And let me tell you, the NFL came back big last week. It was the highest-rated opening game in four years. Ratings were up about 20%. And it was the most consumed NFL game regular season for us ever on Paramount+. So sports really works for us.”

At the conference, Bakish added that the company has had good fortune with other sports as well, including the UEFA Champions League, which recently re-upped its deal with the company to bring even more matches to the streamer. The Paramount sports portfolio includes a lot of soccer, including the Europa League, Serie A, the Barclay Women’s Super League, and the domestic NWSL. Paramount+ complements its sports coverage with a number of studio shows, sports news, and an increasing number of sports-centric documentaries.

Despite the company’s success in the sports field, live media rights have become increasingly expensive in recent years, with a number of leagues commanding record contracts for new deals. At the conference, Bakish was asked whether the company is “assessing whether certain sports rights should be part of your portfolio.”

“Yes. So sports has long been a slice of CBS certainly, and from the beginning, a slice of CBS All Access, now Paramount+,” he said. “So sports are important to us. Sports has a strong consumer base and it’s a strong driver of advertising and a strong driver of distribution.”

In August, Paramount announced a deal with the Big Ten conference, in which football and basketball games will air on CBS — replacing the SEC, which moved to ESPN. The deal will allow fans to stream simulcasts of Big Ten games on the more expensive Paramount+ tier. The conference’s deal also included NBC and FOX, and will pull the conference from its longtime relationship with ESPN.

“We did the Big Ten [deal, because] frankly, we were going to have a hole with the SEC, so we wanted some college football,” Bakish said. “We looked at the notion of running reruns on Saturday afternoons. And ultimately, our models say that this deal is far superior to that. And the good news is the Big Ten … wanted Saturday afternoon on CBS as part of the deal … They know that made the SEC and they wanted that, and that put us in a relatively advantaged position in the auction.”

The deal is reportedly worth more than $8 billion for the conference, which routinely draws the highest ratings for its marquee college football games. With the departure of the sports’ other premiere conference from Paramount’s airwaves, it was obviously important to Bakish to figure out the best way to maintain the company’s standing in the college football space. When it comes to landing major sports rights, all outlets are now having to pay a premium as they continue to be the last thing keeping consumers anchored to traditional TV subscriptions. But Bakish believes that not all sports rights are created equal.

“You’ve got to have the best sports because second-tier stuff doesn’t really matter,” he said. “But if you look at what we have, whether it’s the NFL — which again, Week 1 [was] up 20% … — it’s [a] super valuable product in linear and in streaming.”

Paramount Plus

Paramount+ is a subscription video streaming service that includes on-demand access to 40,000+ TV show episodes from BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr. and more. The lineup includes “1883,” “Tulsa King,” “Star Trek: Discovery,” Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and MTV’s “Laguna Beach.” From well-loved franchises to compelling originals, Paramount+ offers a great library worth streaming. Live NFL games are included. The service also offers the option to watch your live CBS affiliate.

Subscribers can choose between the Essentials Plan (which includes ads) for $4.99/month, or go commercial-free with the Premium Plan for $9.99/month. Subscribers can add Showtime to either plan for an additional fee.

With their Premium Plan, in addition to not having ads, you will also get access to your local CBS affiliate to stream your local news, prime-time lineup, and late-night. You will also be able to download offline and watch select shows in 4K.

With the lower cost “Essential” plan, you will still be able to watch live NFL games, Champions League, and national news – but you will no longer get your local CBS affiliate.

With their new app, enjoy advanced recommendations, curated homepages, and new content categories while still being able to stream major live sports like NFL, College Football, College Basketball. Sports fans will also appreciate the service’s inclusion of NFL on CBS, PGA Tour, along with every match of UEFA Champions League and Serie A.

The service was previously called CBS All Access.

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