Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos Talks Viacom-CBS Deal, Streaming Wars, B.O. Slump and Windows

The soon-to-combine Viacom and CBS will be opportunistic about selling content to third parties even as it looks for synergies throughout the enlarged companies. That’s the word from Paramount Pictures chief Jim Ginaopulos, who spoke Wednesday at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media Communications and Entertainment conference in Los Angeles.

In a wide-ranging Q&A with veteran analyst Jessica Reif Ehrlich, Gianopulos touched on hot-button issues ranging from the prospect of changes to theatrical windows to the slow pace of U.S. trade negotiations with China to the upside for movies studios from the growth of exhibitor loyalty and subscription programs.

Gianopulos echoed the view shared by ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish that the enlarged company will play the field in terms of selling to outside buyers in addition to seeking cross-divisional opportunities when possible. Disney, Comcast and WarnerMedia are in the midst of launching ambitious streaming platforms that will soak up a lot of internal production activity. Not so for Paramount.

“Our content is more desirable, more unique and certainly more available than others,” Gianopulos said. “That puts us in a very good position, especially given the continuing growth in demand.”

The Paramount chief talked up the studio’s bustling Paramount Television operation and noted that the company has three shows in development with WarnerMedia’s nascent HBO Max streamer.

Gianopulos is also looking ahead a few years to the end of Paramount’s pay TV output deal with Epix, the premium cabler that had been a joint venture of Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate until MGM bought out the partners in 2017. With Disney, Fox and presumably some Universal titles being out of the marketplace, Paramount is ready to be the belle of the ball.

“That’s a party that’s going to be a lot of fun,” Gianopulos said. “Because of the scarcity and uniqueness of our output, we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”

Naturally, ViacomCBS will look for synergies between Paramount and CBS’ Showtime pay cabler. But fundamentally, ViacomCBS “will do what’s in the best interest of the company as a whole, but recognizing that (Paramount) films deserve a certain value,” he said.

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