A recurring rumor has returned speculating that Netflix wants to buy Paramount.
Don’t dismiss the rumor so fast. A rumor has popped back up that speculates that Netflix wants to buy Paramount and it’s subsidiaries from ViacomCBS. You may think, “wait, that makes no sense, why would ViacomCBS sell something so profitable!?” To that, the reply would be, who says it’s that profitable? ViacomCBS is a mass media conglomerate with one goal in mind; to turn a profit. That means if they get a good offer to sell, they’ll take it because at the end of the day it’s profits that matter, not portfolios. Should there be heft to the rumor of Netflix buying Paramount, which isn’t a new rumor at all, it could happen. Especially considering how little buzz CBS All Access has generated.
Rumors like this have existed since 2018 when the reliable Hollywood Reporter reported Netflix’s interest in Paramount. Sure things have changed since then but don’t think for a second that a merger will stop a company from moving a property they feel they can cash out huge on.
Beyond that, the rumor reserviced again in May when media blogger and reporter Grace Randolph talked about the interest of Netflix in just Paramount but in ViacomCBS as a whole.
Again, it’s all about turning a profit, no matter what. Investment writer Tom White also believes that ViacomCBS could be had for a price. So the macro level is huge. Yet, what if for argument’s sake it’s the micro-level we need to look at? What if only Paramount is in play? Why would ViacomCBS sell Paramount?
Let’s look at Paramount’s biggest distribution arm, CBS All Access.
Compared to Disney+ and Netflix, CBS All Access isn’t the same type of social media darling. There aren’t a lot of people flocking to the brand, which is why there’s a strong push to change the name and overhaul the content that the service will provide. They need younger, fresher eyes which they’re just not getting to offset the cost of the series they’re creating. Just for Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard alone they’ve spent an estimated $331.5 million for 39 episodes.
That means that CBS All Access would need 55.3 million subscribers for the platform to pay off the cost of the shows in a month’s time. As of February of 2020, the service has four million. It’ll take two years of no new content being added to Star Trek for the current subscriber base to pay off what Star Trek needs to turn a profit.
Now, this shouldn’t sound like we’re saying “ViacomCBS is going out of business” because Star Trek costs so much money. ViacomCBS has a lot of cash and the Star Trek franchise could cost $3 billion to make and the company could stomach the loss. That’s not how these companies work, however. There’s a reason why there’s a push to get Star Trek on Pluto TV and why they’re putting the first season of Discovery on CBS; to monetize it further.
If Netflix comes in with a big swinging offer that erases the net-loss Star Trek and others like the critically received soul-sucking financial disaster that shows like Yellowstone have become, then it’s possible ViacomCBS sells off chunks of Paramount or the entire thing. After all, they already have a working relationship with Netflix, so there’s a sense of understanding from one another.
Think they won’t? Fox did the exact same thing with Disney. They had a franchise that was arguably fresher, more in demand, and more viewed than Star Trek in the X-Men franchise. So there’s reason to believe that we could see another major sell job by a national network.
This may not happen, it might happen. There’s little reason to doubt it, mostly because we’ve seen entertainment companies sell off properties in the past (see Fox) and company mergers end top-rated shows for no reason (see Time Warner canceling its top-rated shows in WCW’s Nitro and Thunder).
The idea of just continuing with something that is making people some money doesn’t exist on this level of the economy. It’s about profits and growing the bottom line. Even if you don’t believe ViacomCBS or Paramount is up for grabs, someone with the money to make moves happen might. That’s all there needs to be for a sale to happen.