Paramount CEO Bob Bakish addresses merger talk, updates Australian strategy


As company focusses more on Hollywood hits, Bakish said investment in local would continue in Australia

The chief executive officer of global entertainment giant Paramount, Bob Bakish (above), has addressed speculation about merger partners.

In his regular Bob Live session with staff, and a subsequent memo, Bakish also outlined how a strategy shift would impact Australian operations.

The company is set to continue on the journey that sees Paramount transition from linear to streaming.

Several outlets reported on the Bakish comments and Deadline published the full Paramount memo.

Paramount strategic focus

As streaming platforms around the world seek profitability, Paramount+ too is examining its business model.

Bakish started his memo talking about “incredible progress” the company made in 2023.

Last year, Paramount+ continued to be one of the fastest growing paid streaming services, and Pluto TV was the most widely distributed FAST service in the world.

He noted the business managed to navigate some significant recent obstacles.

As an industry, we’ve confronted a soft ad market, a volatile macroeconomic environment and two historic strikes just in the last year. All while navigating the ongoing evolution of the streaming business, as industry sentiment and metrics for success continue to shift.

A previous Bob Live session (Image: How Now Creative)

Takeover speculation: Merger or Takeover

While not addressing specific events and no mention the M and T words, Bakish alluded briefly to recent events.

It’s no surprise that Paramount remains a topic of speculation. We’re a storied public company in a closely followed industry. But I have always believed the best thing we can do is concentrate on what we can control — execution. Leaning into what’s working, while continually adjusting to current realities.

Deadline reported that during the CEO company-wide call, Bakish acknowledged rival companies were “kicking tyres,” which he called “a testament to the great work” done by the Paramount global team. The CEO said the business will look at all options.

See also: Impact in Australia if Warner Bros Discovery and Paramount pursued a merger

Workforce reduction

Cutting costs remains a focus for the business.

As it has over the past few years, this does mean we will continue to reduce our workforce globally. These decisions are never easy, but are essential on our path to earnings growth. We will continue to be as thoughtful as we can be, communicate when there is information to share and support our teams throughout.

Going global with Hollywood hits

As streaming services struggle to get the balance right between local and global content, Paramount has made a decision.

It’s become very clear that our Hollywood hits are the biggest draw. So, in 2024, we’re focusing our resources on the most powerful, resonant franchises, films and series that perform across platforms globally.

There will be less local content, but that may not impact Australian commissions.

As we refine our content strategy, this means we’ll produce fewer local, international originals for our platforms, apart from our leading free-to-air networks in Australia, Argentina, Chile and the UK, where we will continue to have a strong pipeline of local content.

That could mean less local originals on Paramount+, with Australia commissions screening on 10. That would be a change of recent strategy which has seen most local production debuting on Paramount+.

NCIS Sydney was one of Paramount’s recent Australian commissions

Streaming profitability

Australia will remain a focus for Paramount+, Bakish confirmed.

Given our continued push to streaming profitability, this year we will lean even further into large markets like the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, where we have a strong multiplatform presence, our US studio content resonates best, and where there is the greatest revenue potential.

Giving some further detail to the immediate streaming strategy, Bakish added:

Globally, increasing subscriber engagement and retention across our platforms will be critical priorities on our path to streaming profitability. So will driving revenue across advertising, subscriptions, and licensing – including through our recently announced Paramount+ branded destinations – while we continue to operate as efficiently as we can and reduce costs.

Paramount Upfront

Paramount ANZ talent assembled at its 2024 Upfront

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