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Bob Bakish’s Key Mandate: Global Mindset, “Local Execution”

Paramount wants to approach its networks, streamers and other assets from a truly global mindset. The conglomerate is working to structure reporting lines within the organization with that in mind — rather than relying on traditional regional clusters — and executives are now sharing additional details of that strategy.

For example, it is now a regular goal to ‘pilot’ content from international companies locally, such as in the UK, with a view to possible expansion into other markets, including the US. “I spoke to Ben Frow, who does the programming for [U.K. broadcast network] Channel 5,” said Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount The Hollywood Reporter. “His thesis is … the real opportunity is to do pilots in the UK as a step towards a global franchise, not necessarily to launch a global franchise out of the gate,” which has often proved difficult.

He pointed to CBS’ season 2 of the BBC remake Ghosts. “It’s from the UK, so that’s an example, even if it wasn’t an internal example,” said Bakish. “But it’s an example of essentially running a show, making it for the UK and then scaling it up. So I think that’s probably the shorter term opportunity. I think Ben is probably right. And the good news is that they’re now having a conversation with that goal in mind, instead of it happening randomly.

“She” in this case includes Pam Kaufman, president and CEO of International Markets, Global Consumer Products and Experiences, and the executives who oversee the company’s major free-to-air TV networks in the US (CBS), Australia (Network 10 ), the UK (Channel 5), Argentina (Telefe), and Chile (Chilevision), who spoke at a recent “Bob Live,” a regular series of internal Paramount employee events in which Bakish and other executives talk about their companies. Those execs include George Cheeks, president and CEO of CBS and chief content officer of news and sports at Paramount+, Maria Kyriacou, who has served as Paramount’s president of Australia, Canada, Israel and the UK but now oversees all of Paramount’s international scripted content and its four free-to-air networks outside the US, and Dario Turovelzky, who, along with Telefe and Chilevision, leads Paramount’s scripted content from Latin America and reports to Kyriacou.

Bakish said when he was the company’s international CEO – he ran Viacom International Media Networks from 2011 to 2016 – top management in the US wasn’t quite ready for a global approach to free-to-air, cable and streaming companies. “The big difference is that at the time our team called something ‘glocal’, part global, part local, but it really wasn’t. It was international and local. So I had this international layer, because the American guys didn’t care about international. Today, we have a aligned leadership team and are conducting business globally. So the time has come to actually take global leadership in free-to-air, streaming and cable networks, combined with local execution,” Bakish described.

For the reorientation he had an important ally in Kaufman, whom he recruited for her new role at the end of July and who knew the new formula from experience. “The company has traditionally been guided by geography. We had a company in Latin America, a company in Europe, a company in Asia, etc. And that was a great business decision at the time. However, the industry has evolved,” Kaufman said THR. “Our business model for the consumer products business has been truly global for years, with leaders in every major market rising to centralized business leaders. This structure works. It has produced great results.”

So when she and Bakish first talked about her expanded role as a leader of the international markets, “we immediately talked about bringing the same structure to our broader company, working together to unify the business segments and organization even more in different countries and cultures.”

After all, Kaufman said, “At Paramount Global, we place a high value on international content, and we also have our globally recognized powerhouses like Star Trek, Spongebob, Paw patrol, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and so on that fans all over the world love and like hits Yellowstone, Tulsa king with globally recognized superstars such as Sylvester Stallone, and the forthcoming 1923. We also have great formats such as NCIS, The challengeand MTVs Shore franchise – these series travel the world well and they also make great local content.

At the same time, such internationally sourced content includes that will or has traveled to the US Los Enviados from Paramount+ Mexico (broadcast as The envoys in the US on Paramount+, with Season 1 becoming the most watched Spanish-language series on the streamer), A gentleman in Moscow (UK) and Over there (South Korea).

But there’s room for more programs to travel to and from different places as long as executives keep an eye out for opportunities, Kaufman said. The name of the game in the globalized and streaming era is one often associated with acquisitions. “This is all about leveraging our scale,” she said.

Industry-wide, it was traditionally “sort of, ‘good luck over there in England or Australia,'” Kaufman told me THR. “Now great content is great content no matter where it comes from, and international content is more popular than ever in the US. If a series works outside of the US, whether it’s from the UK, Australia or Mexico, it has the opportunity to trip.”

Therefore, the company now has global business leaders. For example, Tom Ryan oversees global streaming, with executives like Paramount+ international chief Marco Nobili and Pluto TV international head Olivier Jollet reporting to Ryan and Kaufman. Meanwhile, Cheeks runs the company’s global broadcasting business, with Kyriacou overseeing the free-to-air networks outside the US and reporting to Cheeks and Kaufman. Chris McCarthy leads the MTV brands and networks worldwide along with Showtime, with Kelly Bradshaw responsible for international markets. And Brian Robbins oversees Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon worldwide, in addition to all streaming children’s content, with Jules Borkent responsible for Nickelodeon in international markets. “We are all working incredibly closely together to bring this unified, global strategy to life,” said Kaufman.

“We are leveraging the power of one Paramount and our global footprint to extend reach and fulfill our mission to entertain the planet,” said Ryan. “Internationally beloved franchises, such as Star Trek, Top gun and Paw patrol play an important role in driving subscriber acquisition in new markets. However, engagement and retention require a programming mix including international originals [Paramount+ this summer set the goal of commissioning 150 international originals by 2025]like The envoysregionalized versions of hit series, such as The Challenge: War of Worldsand local live events and sports, such as the MTV EMAs and UEFA football matches.

Exploiting movies in different countries and platforms is also essential. “A powerful franchise is like a beacon that attracts loyal and passionate audiences from around the world and can build brands and grow platforms globally,” said Brian Robbins, president and CEO of Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon, as well as chief content officer, movies & kids & family at Paramount+. For example, both Paw patrol and Sonic driving momentum and growth as they travel from platform to platform and market to market, where they continue to build their reach and popularity tenfold.”

Paramount’s TV business has also sought opportunities for global success stories. “With our new global approach, local hits can quickly turn into global hit franchises, allowing us to leverage our local content teams to serve as global development. This new approach allows us to act faster and more efficiently and have a higher hit rate. said Chris McCarthy, President/CEO of Paramount Media Networks & MTV Entertainment Studios.

In free-to-air TV, however, the new approach required a major change. “Our free-to-air business is very strong,” Kaufman stressed. “We have some of the biggest channels in the world with Chilevision, Telefe, Channel 5, Network 10 and of course CBS. But they were very different in the way the content was rolled out and the decisions were made. So we unified our free-to-air business under George Cheeks, one of the top leaders in the business. His job is not only to run the business globally, but also to make sure we are focused on how we share our content and resources.”

Cheeks explains, “We are building a framework and strategy for our five free-to-air networks to collaborate across entertainment, news and sports to scale more content with local focus and global potential. We are looking at global IP development, franchise expansion, production hubs and joint content acquisitions, just to name a few areas.”

Bakish praised his leaders for being willing and eager to take such a global stand. “Right now we’re looking at a great show popping up in Argentina and determining what other countries and platforms we can bring it to,” Kaufman said without providing further details. “That kind of content migration is a priority. Everyone stands Squid game as the gold standard. We have incredible international dramas in the pipeline and our goal is to bring more of them to Paramount+ in multiple markets.”

Asked about the benefits of creating content that can be distributed beyond individual markets at a time when Paramount is expanding its international original output, Paramount’s CEO explained, “We’ll have an idea and we know it’s going to have a next iteration , and we plan for That. You plan for success.”

said Bakish THR however, it would take a little more time for this effort to bear fruit. “It’s pretty cool,” he said. “But we’ll look back on it in two years, and it’s going to be really cool.”

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