Paramount Head of Streaming Tom Ryan Talks Global Expansion and New Content

As Paramount+ prepares for its The spectacular star-studded UK and Ireland launch in London on Monday, Paramount’s streaming president and CEO Tom Ryan spoke with Variety on the global expansion of the company’s streaming biz which, in addition to being powered by original content, stands out in the field for its diverse model.

This model involves a mix of platforms and partnerships, combining direct-to-consumer and à la carte offerings with a market-to-market approach. The two main points that distinguish Paramount’s streaming offering are the combination of the fast-growing premium Paramount+ offering and its free, ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV, founded by Ryan.

Global release will see Paramount+ will launch in 2023 in India in partnership with Viacom18, which recently won streaming rights to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament formerly held by Disney+. In its first release in Asia, Paramount+ debuted last week in South Korea as a free addition to the CJ ENM-controlled TV platform.

Elsewhere in Europe, Paramount+ has set firm dates to launch its independent streaming offering in Italy in September, in partnership with Sky; and in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France in December, the latter in partnership with Canal+.

In terms of content, Paramount at the London launch is announcing plans to order 150 international originals by 2025 and announcing its latest orders from around the world, which include:

  • “First Lady of Sinaloa” (working title). a series about Emma Coronel, the beauty queen engaged to Mexican drug dealer and escape artist Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. John Leguizamo stars and is co-producing with prominent Mexican producer Frida Torresblanco (“Pan’s Labyrinth”).
  • “Murder of God’s Banker.” 4-part documentary about the murder of fugitive Italian banker Roberto Calvi, known as “God’s banker” because of his close ties to the Vatican, whose body was found hanging from London’s Blackfriars Bridge in 1982. The case intertwines the mafia, the Roman Catholic Church and the world of international finance. Produced by CreativeChaos vmg, based in New York.
  • “The Sheik”: Inspired by real events, this show tells the story of a crook named Ringo, played by Björn Meyer (“Tatort”), who reinvents himself as heir to an Arab fortune. It is created by Swiss Dani Levy (“Go For Zucker”), who co-directs with Johannes Naber. Levy’s X Film Creative Pool is producing.
  • “Marie Antoinette Serial Killer” (“MASK”): This young adult fantasy horror thriller series is created and developed by executive producers Beth Tapper, Mitch Watson and Leila Smith (“Find Me in Paris”). Based on the novel “Marie Antoinette Serial Killer” by American author Katie Alender, the 8-part show follows four young American girls on spring break in Paris who find themselves caught up in a mysterious murder spree that soon becomes very personal. Currently in advanced development, the series is being produced by Frances’ Cottonwood Media.
  • “A fine line”: This show involves two young “hacktivist” twin sisters on a quest to expose environmental wrongdoing by any means necessary. Produced by German Weydemann Bros.
  • “Circeo”: This series, directed by Italian Andrea Molaioli and produced by Roma Cattleya, which is part of ITV Studios, reconstructs the aftermath of the crime that became known as “The Circeo Massacre” that rocked Italy in the 1970s after two teenage girls were found in the trunk of a car in Rome, naked, wrapped in blankets and drenched in blood.

In an extensive interview with Variety, Ryan outlined his global expansion plan.

In the UK, in addition to launching Paramount+ as a standalone, you are also a Sky partner. Paramount has similar partnerships in many territories. This seems to be a key aspect of your strategy.

Yup. We’re taking a similar approach for free, where we’ve launched partnerships that have really supercharged Pluto’s launch in other markets as well. Last month, we launched Pluto in the Nordic region with Viaplay Group, formerly known as NENT. And so we just announced that we’re launching in Canada with Corus. This kind of approach to working with large local partners spans both free and paid.

Give me a snapshot of your launch plan.

Internationally, as I mentioned, we are in 30 markets around the world, so we were able to scale very quickly. We grew both Pluto and Paramount+ very fast. I mean, Paramount+ was only released [in March 2021]and we will be in 45 markets by the end of the following year [2022]. We will have service in India in 2023. And then we’re looking elsewhere in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Pluto TV has scaled to dozens of markets in just a few years. And that’s largely due to the fact that we have qualified teams on the ground that have managed to get us to do that.

The stated goal is 100 million subscribers by 2024. What gives Paramount the edge that allows you to set that goal?

We have a differentiated streaming strategy. We’re the only player that’s really focused on combining a free and paid streaming strategy, and we think that’s very powerful. I believe that ‘one plus one of free and paid equals three’ and we are already successfully driving free Pluto TV users to Paramount+. when sIf someone leaves Paramount+, of course, we try to retain and reactivate them. But we also promote Pluto TV to keep them in our streaming ecosystem. In the US, our description of Paramount+ is: live sports, breaking news and a mountain of entertainment. [News is not part of Paramount’s international offer]. And we really want to be that service for the whole family, because when you have more than one person in the family involved with the service, lifetime value goes up, churn goes down. People stay with you longer when you have a second and ideally a third person in the family starting to use Paramount+ as one of their entertainment apps.

What are your current numbers?

We’re at over 62 million at the end of last quarter, driven by Paramount+, which alone generated 6.8 million subscribers in the first quarter. We have teams on the ground in over 30 countries. The plan is to be in almost 60 markets with more than 60 partners by the end of the year.

Talk to me about your content strategy.

As a global media company with content that truly spans all genres, it allows us to deliver content ranging from sports, news, kids, movies, reality, scripts and originals. We feel extremely well placed. we feel that we are very well positioned competitively because we are able to take these various content engines that we have and create content for multiple platforms. Instead of taking content that we create just for streaming, we can monetize that content through different distribution channels. We can take our movies, for example, give them a theatrical showing and then put them on Paramount+. And we’ve had a lot of success with that.

Let’s talk about windows.

I think a year or so ago, there was a lot of discussion about what was the right model for streaming movies, aand we were one of the first, if not the first, to release the 45-day theatrical post, which puts a lot of value on content marketing and lets you give it a great exclusive theatrical window, but then quickly bring it to streaming. And we’ve had great success with a variety of movies we’ve made that way, most recently “Sonic the Hedgehog 2.” But on a broader level, we are able to monetize the content we create across a variety of distribution channels, from theater and film to broadcast, cable, television and streaming.

I doubt the 45-day window will apply to Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick”

No, it doesn’t. We didn’t decide about it [the theatrical window for ‘Top Gun: Maverick’] still.

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