When Viacom and CBS closed their merger in December 2019, the latter company gained access to a plethora of networks — networks the newly merged company, ViacomCBS, is now bringing to distribution partner Google in a new deal with YouTube TV.
Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, CMT, Paramount Network, TV Land, and VH1 will all launch on YouTube TV this summer, the company announced today. The multi-year deal also includes prior CBS channels that were available to YouTube TV subscribers, including CBS broadcast stations, CBS Sports Network, Pop TV, Smithsonian Channel, and The CW. YouTube TV will also continue to carry ViacomCBS’ premium cable brand, Showtime, as part of the extended distribution agreement. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“We are thrilled to have reached an expanded agreement with YouTube TV that recognizes the full power of our newly combined portfolio as ViacomCBS,” Ray Hopkins, president of US networks distribution at ViacomCBS, said in a press release. “Google has been an excellent partner, and we look forward to bringing even more of our entertainment networks to YouTube TV subscribers for the first time.”
Viacom’s collection of established, popular cable channels is a bundle of assets that YouTube TV can provide to subscribers. Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, and Comedy Central can help bring in new subscribers or keep current customers from canceling their service. ViacomCBS has also worked with various YouTube creators to create original series for those very same networks. Distributing Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, and Comedy Central via YouTube, a platform their audience is on, could help reach viewers not purchasing cable packages or tuning into linear television.
The increase in channels coming to YouTube TV, however, could potentially precipitate a hike in monthly cost for the service. When YouTube TV added Turner networks (TNT, TBS, CNN, truTV, Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim) in 2018, the service saw a $5 price hike from $35 a month to $40 a month. Then, in April 2019, YouTube hiked the price on its service another $10 to $50 a month following the addition of Discovery channels (Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC) and local feeds from four of the major broadcasters. These deals, on top of others that Google has made with companies like WarnerMedia (YouTube TV will carry HBO), a potential price hike isn’t out of the question.
Adding more channels means more costs for Google, but YouTube TV is a growing business that Google wants to invest in. CEO Sundar Pichai called YouTube TV an “exciting product” for the company in a February 2019 earnings call, adding that it has “long run value” for the company because it “brings our advertising products together including being able to serve it across TV.” YouTube TV currently has more than two million subscribers.
“So we are clearly investing in areas where we see opportunity,” Pichai said. “We are pretty thorough about making sure our investments deliver growth on the other side. And so we monitored with metrics and beat engagement and revenue growth and we see a lot of opportunity here.”