ViacomCBS-owned streamer CBS All Access today will unveil a remodeled user interface and a substantially upgraded content offering, with dozens of library series from sibling brands such as Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and ComedyCentral joining the platform—including the once-again red-hot Avatar: The Last Airbender. The makeover follows recent expansions of the streamer’s movie and kids offerings and comes ahead of an even bigger overhaul planned for early 2021, when All Access is scheduled to get a new name and brand identity.
Overall, CBS All Access today is adding upwards of 3500 additional episodes of ViacomCBS-owned TV shows, building on the greatly expanded collection of Paramount movies that joined the service in May. That translates to an extra 70 new TV titles (up from 17,000 episodes and 150-ish shows before) and about 150 feature films (vs. about two dozen in any given month in the past.)
To make the expanded offering easier for subscribers to navigate, the refreshed All Access interface will take a cue from HBO Max and Peacock by introducing hubs devoted to various ViacomCBS brands. When users click on a CBS or BET or Smithsonian icon, they’ll be shown all the content from those networks. Among the new offerings on the expanded service are all seasons of Chappelle’s Show and Strangers with Candy, and six seasons of Reno 911! (Comedy Central); all seasons of Real Husbands of Hollywood and Single Ladies (BET); select seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Love & Hip Hop (VH1/Logo); all seasons of Laguna Beach and select seasons of Teen Mom 2, The Challenge and Jersey Shore: Family Vacation (MTV); and all seasons of Rugrats, Spongebob Squarepants and, as noted, Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon.)
In an interview, ViacomCBS chief digital officer Marc DeBevoise told Vulture the moves are aimed at “broadening and diversifying the subscriber base for CBS All Access by adding a significant amount of content from the brands we have across the company.” The average All Access user is currently around 43 or 44 years old (depending on the time of year), and while that’s dramatically younger than the typical viewer of the CBS broadcast network, the company is hoping the arrival of content from the historically youth-focused Viacom cable brands will convince more millennial consumers to sign up. “We’re definitely going after younger audiences,” DeBevoise said. ViacomCBS execs have said they want to transform All Access into a sort of “super service,” one where content from all of the company’s major TV and film brand lives— although not necessarily exclusively. When All Access is rebranded next year, DeBevoise says his goal is to have roughly 30,000 TV episodes and movie titles on the service (with most of the growth coming from additional series.)
Unlike rivals such as WarnerMedia and Disney, which are spending heavily to make sure the biggest titles in their libraries stream only on their respective platforms (HBO Max, Disney+), ViacomCBS is taking a more hybrid approach. It’s not ruling out keeping some content exclusively in-house, but the company has decided it’s fine taking cash from companies which want to shell out for its most valuable titles. Comcast-owned Peacock, for example, hosts the first two seasons of ViacomCBS-owned Paramount Network’s Yellowstone while Netflix is home to The Last Airbender (and, soon, spin-off series The Legend Of Korra.)
Some of these deals with rivals were struck before ViacomCBS merged with CBS (and thus took control of All Access), but ViacomCBS execs have made it clear they don’t think it’s necessary for shows to stream solely on All Access to have value. Indeed, Airbender is remaining on Netflix, while Legend of Korra has been on All Access for months, and will stay there even when it joins Netflix. But while various pieces of the ViacomCBS library will be scattered around other platforms, “We’re not going to give one provider all of our kids content or another all of our CBS library,” DeBevoise says. “We’re the place to bring all these things together on our own service. Where we think we can make our differentiation is in having all of it together, and that breadth and depth.”
What’s more, the soon-to-be-renamed All Access will lean heavily on the ViacomCBS brand library to expand its roster of original series. It recently announced The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run, originally targeted for movie theaters, will instead stream on the service in 2021 following a limited run on premium video on demand. All Access Thursday also announced that Kamp Koral, the first-even spinoff series from Spongebob Squarepants, will now run exclusively on CBS All Access. It had been announced as a Nickelodeon series and as late as February was planned to debut on the cable network this month. DeBovise said more All Access originals from ViacomCBS-owned properties, including Paramount Pictures and Paramount TV, are in the works. “Our plan is to ramp it up across the brands,” he said. The streamer will also continue to emphasize its live offerings, including live feeds of CBS network and local programming, CBS News and sports. “The originals and live content are what we bring that nobody else brings,” DeBovise said.
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