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From 'Beavis and Butt-Head' to 'Yellowstone,' Paramount bets on scripted shows

Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Other programming for streaming includes the film "Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe," along with a reboot of the classic cartoon series; and "Teen Wolf the Movie," a revival of the 1985 film starring Michael J. Fox.

The current iteration of MTV Entertainment Studios launched in 2019, when McCarthy added Comedy Central, TV Land, Paramount Network and the Smithsonian Channel to his portfolio. He already oversaw MTV, VH1 and CMT. The restructuring came amid the recombination of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. to create ViacomCBS.

Paramount Global is trying to compete in the increasingly crowded streaming video business with Paramount+, which has nearly 40 million subscribers after adding 6.8 million in the most recent quarter. The company also has Pluto TV, its free streamer that makes money through advertising. Paramount Global's stock rose 15% to $32.32 Tuesday after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway acquired 69 million shares of the company. The shares are still down 19% from a year ago.

As the upfronts take place in-person this year for the first time since 2019, Wall Street has been raising questions about the future of both streaming and traditional linear TV. Cable bundle subscriptions are on the decline, but the recent stumbles of Netflix have caused competitors to rethink how they approach the subscription streaming market. Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in its most recent quarter, causing its shares to tank.

Most of the major streaming services now either have an advertising tier or are planning one to grow subscribers and increase revenue. Both Netflix and Walt Disney Co.'s Disney+ are creating cheaper ad-supported tiers.

There have been persistent doubts that Paramount has the firepower to compete against the giants. But McCarthy argues that Paramount is ahead of the curve with Paramount+, which has a $10-a-month ad-free tier and a $5-a-month version with commercials, and Pluto TV.

 

"In six months or even a year from today, I think people will really take a step back and say, 'You know, what Paramount has is actually really unique,' " McCarthy said. "In many ways, it's what a lot of streaming-only companies are rushing to create."

The L.A. Times spoke with McCarthy ahead of Paramount's upfront presentation.

Q: The MTV brand for years has been best known for unscripted shows. After the success of "Yellowstone" and the prequel "1883," why double down on this on this part of the business, which is both expensive and risky?

A: Because it's working and the audience demand is there. "Yellowstone" is the No. 1 scripted series in all of TV. "1883" was the No. 1 title across TV and film on Paramount+ for 2021, and as we look forward, we have incredible stories to tell, with A-list talent and unique and interesting worlds to build. We are maximizing the momentum we have going on and franchising in real time. There's a fallacy that you can't be premium and broad. All of our shows are incredibly premium, but they're also big and broad.

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