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19 August 2021

SkyShowtime to replace Paramount+ in some markets, confusing in most

Not only is Peacock tipped to make its European break by November this year, but now overlord Comcast – via its UK operator subsidiary Sky – has backed another OTT video venture for the continent called SkyShowtime, in partnership with ViacomCBS, confirming rumors which leaked out in mid-July.

Even though Peacock’s European expansion effort is expected to be exclusive to Sky customers, the impending arrival of the SkyShowtime SVoD platform in 2022 is demonstrative of the heavily congested highways of video streaming options today, to increasingly confusing effect. On that front, it seems that SkyShowtime will replace ViacomCBS’s Paramount+ streaming operation in certain countries, including in four key Nordic markets.

Curiously, Peacock content will feature in the new SVoD venture, along with a slate of titles from Showtime, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+ Originals, Sky Studios, and Universal Pictures. It suggests that the 20 European markets in which SkyShowtime will go live next year will not be receiving Peacock anytime soon, or ever in fact.

European consumers won’t be losing much sleep over this, of course, with the current wealth of options, but the strategy still raises some eyebrows – targeting a pool of 90 million homes across North, South, Central, and Eastern Europe.

So, with the continent’s biggest economies of Western Europe absent from SkyShowtime’s showreel, it gives us an idea of how Comcast wants to play its European streaming house of cards (if someone else doesn’t take it upon themselves to create a handy map that plots these services by country, then we probably should at some point).

For ViacomCBS, the SkyShowtime venture is everything it could have dreamed of and more from the volatile reunion between the two mass media giants that completed in 2019. It propels the OTT version of its Showtime TV network outside of US borders for the first time, while Paramount+ will be coming to Sky platforms in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland from 2022 (all countries where SkyShowtime will NOT be launching). It expands Paramount+ from its currently availability in North America, Latin America, the Nordics, and soon to be Western Europe, with SkyShowtime taking precedence in any regions where Paramount+ is available on a standalone basis.

This makes a lot of sense from an aggregation point of view for Sky’s pay TV platforms, but is a surefire way to further frustrate consumers from a brand marketing standpoint – with Sky’s own streaming service Now (recently rebranded from Now TV) also available in a number of content flavors to UK consumers. SkyShowtime will have to step carefully, but is being marketed as a place combining the best of the US and Europe.

ViacomCBS has a target of 75 million subscribers by 2024, and as of May this year was almost halfway at 36 million globally. Folding SkyShowtime into this target, if ViacomCBS does not reach this 75 million goal in three years, then something has gone badly wrong.

From a technology perspective, we know SkyShowtime will be based on the existing Peacock infrastructure, which is interesting considering that most of Peacock’s technology muscle-flexing has been focused around advertising, mainly involving NBCU’s One Platform ad tech stack (based on the Sky AdSmart addressable technology). Being an SVoD, One Platform will be of little use to SkyShowtime, but we understand it will lean heavily on AWS cloud infrastructure and is also powered by Comcast’s own vendor subsidiary Comcast Technology Solutions, for things like multiscreen video management, workflow management of video ingest, metadata, subscriber management and viewing rights enforcement, automated publishing across device, and video player profiles.

SkyShowtime will be a 50-50 joint venture between Comcast and ViacomsCBS, with equal investment and joint control. Additional details including subscription price will be announced at a later date.

Housing over 10,000 hours of content, SkyShowtime will be available in Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.