Paramount Purge and the Streaming Wars


Paramount has found itself in a dire situation since their credit rating was downgraded to junk status in late March 2024. Now, Skydance and Paramount are near a merger deal, reversing course on their previously failed negotiations. As a merger appears more likely and Paramount attempts to improve their credit rating, they are now taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to saving Paramount+. This can only be code-named the Paramount Purge. 

Upon the creation of Paramount+, Paramount seemingly missed what made streaming popular in the first place: having a vast library of shows available for a low price. It’s why Netflix was able to make a seamless transition from DVD mailing company to streaming service, and why Hulu was also able to make a name for itself. Two other streaming services, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+, are a product from two of the handful of multi-trillion dollar companies in the world. Neither own any broadcast or cable networks. Meanwhile, Paramount+ is owned by Paramount, who also owns CBS and several cable established cable channels. 

Given how much content viewers were used to getting with a cable package and/or Netflix subscription pre-streaming wars, Paramount+ simply struggles to make a case that its existence is a better alternative. Its biggest appeal is arguably CBS — both current series and a library of past titles — but CBS themselves had their own streaming service before merging with Paramount (then named Viacom). As you may recall, it was called CBS All-Access and featured a mixture of the CBS brand and original series. Some of those original series lasted multiple seasons and continued their runs on Paramount+, which may have led to confusion among casual viewers. No CBS All-Access original quite took off the way CBS would have hoped; while early originals like Star Trek: Discovery and The Good Fight lasted multiple seasons, they rated abysmally when rerun on CBS. Streaming viewership information is sparse, but the general consensus is while they may have done well enough in the context of CBS All Access/Paramount+, they were no House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black. Essentially, Paramount expected Paramount+ to replace cable, but does not have the content needed to make the proper transition.

That’s not stopping Paramount from trying, as they are doing everything they can to save Paramount+. Before the junk status rating and subsequent talks of a sale, Paramount merged with Showtime in June 2023. They then proceeded to shut down the standalone Showtime service in effort to get people to sign up for the Paramount+ With Showtime premium tier. That December, they went on to shut down the standalone apps that complemented Paramount-owned cable networks like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and MTV.  In doing so, Paramount encouraged viewers to sign up for Paramount+, but assured viewers the shows would still be available for viewing on the brands’ respective websites. After talks of a sale initially fell through in June 2024, Paramount proceeded to abruptly purge decades worth of content from four of their cable brands’ websites: Comedy Central, MTV, CMT, and TV Land. Cord-cutters are now left with no choice but to either return to cable, or sign up for Paramount+. 

The irony about the standalone cable app purge is that Paramount+ has been going through purges. They canceled and removed a previously-renewed Rugrats reboot, one of the most notable shows to launch in the early days of the streamer. They did the same to a live-action Fairly OddParents reboot, and have since premiered an animated reboot in a move akin to gaslighting. Other canceled-and-removed shows include a TV adaptation of Grease, a reboot of The Game, saved-from-CBS show Blood & Treasure, and drama Wolf Pack, which had just weeks prior premiered on the Showtime on Paramount+ linear network. None of these moves were overly surprising, and were predicted in our Paramount+ Renew/Cancel column. The point is, that’s not exactly a sign of a healthy streaming service.

Despite purging their cable brand apps and websites, Paramount is not abandoning cable. In fact, just a few weeks before the purge, they announced Paramount+ original series Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head would move to Comedy Central to air a third season. The cable network was to be the original home of the Beavis and Butt-Head reboot when it received a two-season order back in 2020, and will now actually be home of first-run episodes. Comedy Central will also air the upcoming cartoon Everybody Still Hates Chris, a reboot of the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, first announced as a Paramount+ original. Of course, without the Comedy Central app or the ability to stream Comedy Central shows on the website, Paramount+ will still be the sole streaming home of Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head and Everybody Still Hates Chris. Nickelodeon also airs several Paramount+ originals, including what was supposed to be one of the streamer’s flagship series upon its launch in Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years. Paramount is now left in a position where Paramount+ is not bringing viewership to original kids programming the way they had anticipated, while the rapidly-declining Nickelodeon is doing little to save them. Even worse for Paramount — besides CBS, two of their most recognizable brands are Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

For now, Paramount will try to raise its credit rating out of junk status and prove itself to be a healthier company financially. However, it’s highly likely Shari Redstone will have either sell off parts of the company, or sell the whole company and watch the buyer sell off some parts. The outlook doesn’t look great, as Paramount+ struggles to build a solid market share and has little. While Halo has been a hit not just for Paramount+ but overall, it’s also extremely expensive to produce and has yet to be renewed for a third season. If Paramount wants Paramount+ to be more successful, they’re going to need more than an original NCIS spinoff or another Star Trek series. What they need is a more robust offering of live sports.

Paramount+ is the streaming home of the NCAA, multiple soccer leagues, and the NFL games that CBS broadcasts for free. They need something more than that to draw subscribers to their service for their live sports offerings in droves. In theory, bidding for the rights to the NBA could have helped them, just like Thursday Night Football helped Amazon Prime Video. The problem is, live sports are also expensive, and oftentimes are used as loss leaders. Paramount is not in a position where they can spend a ton of money on a loss leader right now. 

Without an obvious strategy to grow the amount of content on Paramount+, Paramount is left with no choice but to go into cost-cutting mode. Shari Redstone may ultimately have to go against her late father’s wishes and sell off parts of the company. However, this will only diminish the offerings on a streamer that is already being criticized for having a thin library. Perhaps they could make up for this by adding Showtime content to the standard subscription tier, but it would be hardly enough to save an entire streaming service. Paramount is in a tough position: they need more content to build up Paramount+, but they’re simply not in a position where they can do such a thing. 

There’s one clear solution: end the streaming wars. As the number of streaming services grows well beyond Netflix and Hulu, streaming is starting to no longer be a cheaper alternative to cable. Paramount+ is the streaming home to CBS and Paramount’s cable brands. Before streaming services were around, many of the shows branded as Paramount+ originals would have just aired on one of Paramount’s cable networks. Now, instead of getting a cable package where you get all of Paramount’s cable channels along with those from Warner Brothers and NBCUniversal, you need to subscribe to Paramount+, Max, and Peacock to enjoy many new original series. 

All three streaming services are struggling to compete with Netflix, and seem to realize the market has become oversaturated. Even as talks to merge with Skydance continue, Paramount is reportedly looking for a partner for Paramount+. Max and Peacock have both been floated as potential streamers to merge content with Paramount+ in an effort to be more competitive and profitable. Arguably, all three should merge into one big streaming service, clearly from a price reduced from the current combined cost of all three. More likely, we’ll see Paramount+ merge with Max — much like when the struggling United Paramount Network (UPN) and fellow struggling The Warner Brothers Television Network (The WB) merged to form The CW. Sure, The CW also failed until they licensed their shows out to Netflix, and it’s failing again now that the Netflix deal expired. Still, at this point Paramount and Warner Brothers need to see the writing on the wall — they just don’t have the infrastructure needed to survive alone in this diluted streaming market. Arguably, even if a full-on company merge likely won’t happen, the creation of one larger streaming service is worth a try.

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »