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ViacomCBS Reports a Loss While Trying to Expand into Streaming

By John Ballard – Feb 21, 2020 at 12:03PM

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Fresh off a merger, management is looking past the recent weak results and eyeing a big prize in the lucrative streaming market.

Less than three months after Viacom and CBS completed a merger agreement, the new ViacomCBS (NASDAQ: VIAC) (PARA.A -3.93%) is moving swiftly to make a big splash in video streaming.

But the company just reported a loss for its first quarter since the transaction. The net loss of $0.44 per share was lower than analysts' estimates of $1.32, or $1.41 on an adjusted basis. That huge miss sent the shares crashing, but CEO Bob Bakish sees a bright future. 

During the fourth-quarter call, Bakish said, "ViacomCBS is one of the largest content producers and providers in the world, and that is an incredibly exciting and valuable place to be at a time when both consumer and commercial demand for premium content is only growing." 

A girl sitting on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.

Image source: Getty Images.

Having a vast content library helps

ViacomCBS has loads of content to be successful in streaming, including the Paramount film library, the Star Trek franchise, as well as content it can bring over from cable TV channels like BET, MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon. Overall, there are 30,000 episodes in TV and 1,000 movies it can monetize through streaming services, which Bakish calls a "House of Brands" product. 

The opportunity to unlock value from its content library extends beyond the CBS All Access service. For example, Nickelodeon struck a multi-year deal last year to license content to Netflix. Plus, ViacomCBS has the leading free streaming service in Pluto TV with over 22 million users. 

The company's domestic streaming and digital video business, including subscriptions and advertising, generated $1.6 billion in revenue in 2019, and management anticipates that growing between 35% to 40% in 2020. Longer term, "the opportunity is much, much larger," Bakish said. 

John Ballard has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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