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December 8, 2023
As others pull back on licensed content in favor of originals, the streamer’s strategy harkens back to Blockbuster with its mix of new releases and iconic classics
Visit Paramount+ and you’ll not only see recent hits like “Scream 6” and “Top Gun: Maverick,” but library titles as varied as “Sunset Boulevard,” “His Girl Friday,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Almost Famous,” “Fatal Attraction,” “The Piano,” “Heaven’s Gate,” “Roman Holiday,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Titanic,” the complete “Indiana Jones” franchise, all the “Mission: Impossible” movies and every “Star Trek” movie.
If that reminds you of perusing the well-stocked aisles at Blockbuster, mixing popular new releases with beloved older films, that’s exactly the point. And it’s paying off: Data from Parrot Analytics shows that viewer demand for movies on Paramount+ has steadily increased over the past 18 months, rising from a little over a third of total demand to nearly half.
“The vast majority of our movies are surfaced to our active users on a daily basis, and are similarly consumed,” Jeff Grossman, executive vice president of content and business operations for Paramount+, told TheWrap. Paramount says more than 99% of the movies in its collection are recommended to subscribers each day, and over 97% of the movies are watched, which speaks to the quality of its curation.
Key to that strategy is leveraging the vast Paramount Pictures library.
“Among our early conversations were how do we ensure that we include and deliver the broadest content and some of the best titles from that library possible,” Grossman said, noting that the film library has was “the heart of our offering.”
The breadth of the Paramount film library allows Paramount+ to be selective about the third-party films it puts on the service — i.e. only the cream of the crop, like the James Bond franchise, thanks to a deal with MGM that predates that studio’s acquisition by Amazon. Grossman wouldn’t give a figure for the percent of third-party content on Paramount+ but said it was a “fair amount.”
Another key to the Paramount+ movie strategy is drifting off the success of Paramount’s theatrical titles. When “Scream 6” was about to hit theaters, the streamer ensured it had the previous “Scream” movies to stream as fans were preparing for the latest installment. Views of “Top Gun” surged 500% as the release of “Top Gun: Maverick” approached. And as the seventh “Mission: Impossible” film hits theaters, Paramount+ is the exclusive streaming home of the previous six films in the Tom Cruise franchise.
Grossman said as soon as the release date of a major franchise film is set by Paramount, the streamer begins plans to ensure they can get most (if not all) previous titles on the streamer when that release date approaches.
The team gets a “second bite at the apple” when theatrically released Paramount films come to the streamer: “Scream 6” hit Paramount+ 45 days after it hit theaters, for example, and there was yet another lift in viewership of the new and older titles at that time. All the marketing that goes into the theatrical release doubles as raising awareness for the title once it eventually lands on the streamer.
While most Paramount films stream on Paramount+ within 45 days of their theatrical release, “Top Gun: Maverick” famously wasn’t available for streaming until seven months after its debut in theaters, largely owing to Tom Cruise’s wishes for a robust theatrical window (to the tune of $1.4 million at the worldwide box office).
Goodman was mum on what the window for “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” looks like. “The way that we approach the theatrical streaming window is we look at it on a title-by-title basis, and that’ll be the case with ‘Mission: Impossible’ as well,” he said.
Paramount+ is valuing its film library in a way that stands out, said Hub Entertainment Research founder Jon Giegengack.
“They have a big catalog, they’re doing a good job of leveraging it in a way that will not just attract viewers but also hopefully move them up the ramp to their most profitable platforms,” he told TheWrap. “At least from what I’ve seen there, they’re making pretty smart decisions so far about which things to license and which ones not to because they want to keep that exclusive stuff for themselves.”
Hub’s research shows that all of the different streamers have succeeded in making consumers aware they exist, but the struggle now is getting consumers to understand what they offer. According to their data, 93% of consumers are aware that Paramount+ exists, but only 50% of respondents felt confident they could explain how it’s different from other streamers.
That the breadth and quality of the Paramount+ library is flying under the radar is a challenge, but a good problem to have — especially as rival streamer HBO Max, which used to be a favorite of cinephiles with its robust classic film collection, has been muddied by its combination with Discovery+ and relaunch as Max.
Paramount+ is working to keep subscribers occupied by serving content specifically related to their taste based on what they’ve watched. There is a programming team and dedicated resources to the movie library on Paramount+, which uses AI to curate collections customized to a consumer’s specific profile. That crosses both film and television, so if a subscriber finishes the “Yellowstone” spinoff series “1923,” Paramount+ might offer up library films related to the Western show.
Grossman said there are a “healthy number of titles” that cycle in and out of the service to keep things fresh, and they’re constantly looking at metrics to ensure titles are being consumed.
“Because we’ve been the fastest growing service domestically since we launched, our audience continues to grow, and their tastes continue to grow,” he said. “Part of our thinking is to try to program to where we think the service is going rather than where the service may be today.”
In a volatile and fast-moving time for major streamers, what does that mean exactly? It’s anyone’s guess, but as Netflix dips its toe back into the licensed content waters and Max struggles through its rebrand, Paramount+ could have a cinematic leg up on the competition.