Comcast and ViacomCBS are exploring partnerships in international streaming — a more targeted agreement than a full-out merger, speculation of which has dogged both companies for months.
The issue came up at a business meeting in New York earlier this summer with Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, ViacomCBS chair Shari Redstone and chief executive Bob Bakish present and has been ongoing between the companies, according to people familiar with the conversations. Expanding in overseas streaming is a focus for both sides. Despite frenzied M&A speculation often targeting the Philadelphia based-conglomerate, an outright merger of Comcast and ViacomCBS would face hefty regulatory hurdles.
It’s not clear what the partnerships might entail, but Roberts noted in April that Comcast is looking to roll Peacock, which is launched in 2020 and is currently only domestic, into overseas markets. Comcast also owns Sky, which operates the Sky Now streaming platform in the U.K.
On the ViacomCBS front, Paramount+ — an ambitious reboot of CBS All Access launched in February — is in Latin America and Australia and the company anticipates it will be available in 45 markets by 2022. The company’s free ad-supported streaming service Pluto TV has also been rolling out internationally.
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Deal rumors have surged since the streaming wars began, accelerating with two mergers in May — AT&T’s plans to unwind WarnerMedia, which will combine with Discovery, and Amazon’s proposed purchase of MGM. Neither deal is expected to close until well into next year, and the latter is being investigated by the FTC.
Roberts has noted on a few occasions recently that he likes Comcast’s current business mix, about 70% broadband, and the way its assets including NBC, work together. Any major acquisition would change that mix. A ViacomCBS deal would for one thing bring together two broadcast networks,, NBC and CBS, which currently isn’t allowed.
Comcast reports second quarter financial results July 29, ViacomCBS on August 5 and could elaborate then on what they’re thinking.
The entertainment industry’s earnings’ season kicks off this afternoon with Netflix. All numbers and executive commentary will be heavily scrutinized for insights on business returning to normal and the lay of an increasingly competitive streaming landscape even as people are finally getting out and about.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the execs’ New York meeting.
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