"Spongebob Squarepants" "Spongebob Squarepants"

ViacomCBS, the media conglomerate formed by the merger — or rather re-merger — of Viacom and CBS Corporation in December, is in a strange position: it is at once early and late to the streaming wars.

CBS was ahead of the game when it launched CBS All Access in 2014. Built around CBS’s network programming, the platform offers a mix of live tv and streamed shows (including originals). Following the merger, All Access was brought under the same ownership as Viacom’s range of more specialized streamers, including Showtime, Pluto TV, BET+, and Noggin.

So far, however, ViacomCBS’s scattered offerings haven’t coalesced into a substantial streaming product to rival the likes of Netflix, Disney+, or Warnermedia’s forthcoming HBO Max. That’s set to change. Earlier this month, ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish announced that the company will relaunch All Access as a fully-fledged streaming behemoth with an expanded library of content and a broader slate of original programming.

Details remain scarce: while the streamer will be built around All Access’s existing platform, we don’t know exactly when it will launch, what it will be called, or how much it will cost (subscribers currently pay $6 with ads, $10 without). But the streamer will draw content from ViacomCBS’s portfolio: Nickelodeon, Paramount, MTV, Comedy Central, Smithsonian, etc. Famous IPs will spawn original content.

Through its brands, particularly Nickelodeon, ViacomCBS owns a wide range of animation properties: think Garfield, Spongebob Squarepants, Dora the Explorer. (Comedy Central broadcasts South Park, but HBO Max has acquired exclusive U.S. streaming rights to the show in a multi-year deal.)

It seems that ViacomCBS plans to retain its other streaming services, offering them alongside the revamped All Access. It is expanding several of these services internationally — on Monday, its international division ViacomCBS Networks International promoted Ezequiel Fonseca Zas to lead the streaming and mobile push worldwide, with a focus on Pluto TV, Paramount+, and Noggin. There are also plans to roll out the new All Access internationally within the next 12 months.

All Access and Showtime have seen a spike in usage in recent months, reflecting a general trend in the streaming world due to the coronavirus. The two services broke their own records for sign-ups, streams, and time watched in the first quarter of this year, even as ViacomCBS reported a 6% revenue decline in the same period.

Some 120 titles from the Paramount library have already been added to All Access, as have a range of Nickelodeon titles. Nickelodeon will also continue to produce content for other partners: it recently announced a multi-year deal with Netflix, which is reported to include a music-based Spongebob spin-off centered on Squidward.

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