Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts and ViacomCBS chairman Shari Redstone met in recent weeks to discuss a potential streaming pact for international markets, according to a new report.
Roberts, Redstone and ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish convened in New York at the end of June to explore a host of possible business partnerships that would allow the companies to enter non-US markets together, The Wall Street Journal said, citing anonymous sources.
Neither Comcast nor ViacomCBS immediately returned requests for comment.
Redstone and Roberts had tongues wagging earlier this month when the media bosses were seen having a powwow at Allen & Co.’s conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“I meet with everyone,” Redstone told The Post, after being asked about her chat with Roberts.
The talks between the two execs come shortly after a string of big media deals made headlines, such as the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia and Amazon’s acquisition of MGM, the Hollywood studio behind the James Bond franchise.
ViacomCBS and Comcast are looking for ways to compete with streaming giants Netflix and Disney, which have logged over 200 million and over 100 million global subscribers respectively. Bundling services and overseas expansion are two ways the companies can find growth. Both ViacomCBS and Comcast have already announced plans to expand abroad.
In April, Roberts said Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal and Universal Pictures, would ink deals with local programmers and distributors abroad to grow Peacock, the streaming service it launched last July.
A month later, ViacomCBS said its Paramount+ service, which includes content from CBS, Comedy Central, MTV and movie studio Paramount, would be available in 45 markets by 2022.
Some media watchers have suggested that Roberts and Redstone could join forces in a mega-merger, but according to The Journal, Roberts doesn’t feel the need to go the M&A route.
Other experts caution that a merger would likely cause regulatory pushback, citing potential anti-trust roadblocks to a deal that would put rival networks CBS and NBC, as well as competing movie studios Paramount and Universal Pictures, under the same roof.
Still, both Comcast and ViacomCBS with their need to play catch up in the streaming race before the larger players leave them in the dust. Comcast said in late April that Peacock has 42 million sigh-ups for its free, ad-supported programming. But fewer than 10 million consumers pay for the premium, $4.99 a month version of the service as of May, The Journal said.
ViacomCBS said as of May its streaming services, which include Paramount+, Showtime and BET+, have logged nearly 36 million. The company’s free, ad-supported PlutoTV service racked up roughly 50 million active users.
The Journal said that before ViacomCBS launched Paramount+, Comcast suggested joining forces on streaming but the Redstone-led company wasn’t interested in the offer. Now, it looks like that thinking has changed.