Bob Bakish’s Paramount Mandate: Global Mindset, “Local Execution”
Paramount is committed to a global approach to its network, streamers, and other assets. The conglomerate is currently reorganizing reporting lines within the company with this in mind, rather than relying upon traditional regional clusters. Executives are now sharing more details about that strategy.
For example, “piloting” content from international businesses locally, such as in Britain, with an eye on a possible expansion into other markets, including the U.S., is now a regular goal. “I was talking with Ben Frow, who runs programming for [U.K. television network] Channel 5,” Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said The Hollywood Reporter . “His thesis states that… the real opportunity is in piloting in the U.K. to take the first step towards a global franchise, and not necessarily trying launch a global franchise right away,” which has been difficult.
He pointed to CBS’ season 2 of the BBC remake Ghosts. Bakish stated that “it does come from the U.K., therefore that’s an instance, even though it wasn’t an internal example.” It’s a good example of piloting a show, then making it for the U.K., and then scaling it up. That’s my view of the best opportunity in the near-term. I believe Ben is right. The good news is that they are now having a conversation with this end in mind, rather than it randomly happening .”
“They,” in this case, includes Pam Kaufman, president and CEO of international markets, global consumer products & experiences, and the executives overseeing the company’s big free-to-air TV networks in the U.S. (CBS), Australia (Network 10), the U.K. (Channel 5), Argentina (Telefe) and Chile (Chilevision), who spoke during a recent “Bob Live,” a regular series of internal Paramount events for employees that feature Bakish and other execs talking about their businesses. These executives include George Cheeks (CEO of CBS) and Maria Kyriacou (President and CEO of Paramount ), who previously served as Paramount’s president for Australia, Canada, Israel, and the U.K. and is now responsible for all Paramount’s internationally originated scripted material and its four free to-air networks outside the U.S. and Dario Turovelzky who reports to Kyriacou.
Bakish said when he was the company’s international CEO — he led Viacom International Media Networks from 2011 to 2016 — the top leadership in the U.S. wasn’t fully ready for a global approach to free-to-air, cable and streaming businesses. The difference is that we called something “glocal” back then, which was part global, part local. But it wasn’t. It was both local and international. Because the U.S. guys weren’t concerned about international, I had an international layer. Today, we have a well-aligned leadership team and are pursuing global issues. Bakish explained that the time has come for global leadership in free-to-air, streaming, and cable networks. This is combined with local execution.
Kaufman was his key ally for the refocus. He tapped her new position in July and knew the new formula from personal experience. “The company was historically managed by geography. We had a Latin America, Europe, and Asia business. It was a great business decision. However, the industry has evolved,” Kaufman told THR. “Our operating model for consumer products has been truly global for many years. Leaders in all key markets have climbed up to centralized business leaders. This structure works. It has produced amazing results.”
Bakish and she first discussed her expanded role in leading the international markets. “We immediately talked about bringing that same structure to our broader businesses, working together to unify business segments and organize even more across cultures and countries.”
After all, Kaufman said, at Paramount Global “we really value international content, and we also have our globally recognized powerhouse franchises like Star Trek, SpongeBob, Paw Patrol, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and so forth that fans around the world love, and hits like Yellowstone, Tulsa King with globally recognized superstars like Sylvester Stallone, and the upcoming 1923. We also have amazing formats, like NCIS, The Challenge, and MTV’s Shore franchise – these series travel well around the world, and they also make great local content.”
At the same time, such internationally originated content that will or has traveled to the U.S. includes Los Enviados from Paramount Mexico (which aired as The Envoys in the U.S. on Paramount , with season 1 becoming the most-watched Spanish-language series on the streamer), A Gentleman in Moscow (U.K.) and Yonder (South Korea).
Kaufman stated that there is still room for more programming to travel to different places, provided executives are open to new opportunities. Acquisitions are often the name of the game in today’s globalized streaming age. She said, “This is all about scaling up our operations.”
Across the industry, traditionally, “it was kind of like: ‘good luck over there in England or Australia’,” Kaufman told THR. “Great content is great content no matter where it came from, and international content has become more popular than ever in America. It doesn’t matter if the series is from the U.K. or Australia, it can travel.
This is why the company has global business leaders. Tom Ryan, for example, oversees global streaming, with executives like Paramount international chief Marco Nobili and Pluto TV international head Olivier Jollet reporting into Ryan and Kaufman. Cheeks oversees the company’s global broadcast operations. Kyriacou is responsible for the free-to air networks outside the U.S. and reports into Cheeks or Kaufman. Kelly Bradshaw is responsible for international markets, while Chris McCarthy oversees the MTV brands and networks worldwide. Brian Robbins is responsible for Nickelodeon and Paramount Pictures globally. Jules Borkent is responsible for Nickelodeon international markets. Kaufman said, “We all work incredibly closely together in order to bring this global strategy to life.”
Ryan stated that “We are leveraging one Paramount’s global reach and the power of our global footprint to expand our reach and fulfill our mission to entertain the planet.” “Internationally loved franchises like Star Trek Top Gun , and Paw Patrol are important in driving subscriber acquisition in the new markets.” Ryan said. However, engagement and retention require a programming mix inclusive of international originals [Paramount this summer set the goal of commissioning 150 international originals by 2025], such as The Envoys, regionalized versions of hit series, such as The Challenge: War of Worlds, and local live events and sports, such as the MTV EMAs and UEFA” soccer matches.
It is important to leverage movies across platforms and countries. “A strong franchise is like an beacon that draws in loyal, passionate audiences from all over the world and can grow brands and platforms globally,” said Brian Robbins (President and CEO of Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and chief content officer, movies and kids & families at Paramount ). “As examples, both Paw Patrol and Sonic drive momentum and growth as they journey from platform to platform and market to market, where they keep building their reach and popularity ten-fold.”
Paramount’s TV operations are also looking for global success stories. “With our global approach, local hits can be quickly transformed into global hit franchises. This allows us to capitalize upon our local content teams as global development – we can move faster, more efficiently, and have a higher success ratio,” said Chris McCarthy (CEO, Paramount Media Networks & MTV Entertainment Studios).
The new approach to free-to-air TV required significant changes. Kaufman stated that “our free-to-air business was really strong.” “We have some of the biggest channels in the world with Chilevision, Telefe, Channel 5, Network 10 and, of course, CBS. They were also very different in how content was distributed and decisions were made. We merged our free-air business under George Cheeks who is one of the most respected leaders in the industry. His role is to oversee the business globally and to ensure that we are focusing on sharing our content.
Explained Cheeks: We are creating a framework and strategy to allow our five free-to air-networks to work together across entertainment and news to scale more content with local focus. We are looking at global IP development and franchise expansion, production centers, joint content acquisitions, and joint content acquisitions to name a few .
Bakish praised his leaders for being open and eager to embrace a global perspective. Kaufman stated that they are currently focusing on an amazing show in Argentina and determining which countries and platforms it can be brought to. This kind of content migration should be a priority. Everyone regards Squid Game the gold standard. Paramount has incredible international dramas in its pipeline. We intend to bring more of them to multiple markets .”
Paramount’s CEO, Paramount, answered questions about the benefits of content that can travel outside of one market at a time when Paramount is expanding international production. He said: “We will have an Idea and we know that it has another iteration. And we plan for that.” You plan for success .”
Bakish told THR it would take some time for this effort bear full fruit. He said, “It’s pretty awesome.” “But we’ll look back at it two years from now, and it’ll be very cool.”
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