STREAMING SATURDAY: Why is Paramount such a tough sell?

Paramount hasn’t exactly been shy about it: they want someone to come and buy them. And yet we’ve seen several potential suitors come and go, and there’s no sale in sight. The latest suitors seem to be a partnership between Sony and Apollo Global Management. We’ve heard other names mentioned in the past, too. For my money I think that Skydance would have been a good owner, but it seems like their deal fell apart. On the other hand, early talks that would have seen Warner Bros. Discovery absorbing Paramount were scary to a lot of folks and I think most of us are glad those talks fell through.

Why is it so hard for Paramount to find the right buyer? It’s a pretty messy story with a lot of different pieces. Here’s the way I understand it. I’ll admit that I get a lot of my information from stories on business web sites, and I haven’t my own investigations on this subject. So here goes. I hope that if you, my dear readers, are even better at understanding this whole mess that you’ll leave a comment below.

A lot of Shari Redstone​

Shari Redstone is, in a lot of ways, the controlling part of Paramount. In a lot of ways she compares to someone like Elon Musk except probably without some of the eccentricities. As the “non-executive chairwoman” of Paramount, she has a lot of sway over what happens with the company. She’s spurned offers from several corporate suitors so far.

I’m not going to pretend I understand Shari Redstone. I do know that it was Sumner Redstone, Shari’s father, who was a longtime guiding force at Paramount, and that when he left the position at an advanced age, Shari was put in position, and it didn’t completely seem like everyone was happy about that. It could be that the younger Redstone simply doesn’t enjoy being in the position and is looking for a decent paycheck on the way out. The truth is that I don’t know.

A lot of Paramount being what Paramount is​

OK, truth to power time. Paramount is a great name and over the years they have produced some great content. Think of The Godfather, all the Star Treks, the Mission: Impossibles, and the great sitcoms over the years. But, the Paramount name has been owned by a lot of different groups over the years. There was a decade-long dance where some CBS content belonged to Viacom and other content belonged to CBS or Paramount, and then all those entities got back together. From a business point of view, it’s been a little bit of a mess.

Making matters worse is that Paramount’s new content selection hasn’t been as robust as other apps. Other than Paw Patrol movies, which seem to get cranked out with some regularity, they seem to debut a new film every other month or so. There’s a deep bench of older content but nothing new in the pipeline it would seem. That’s going to make Paramount a lot less interesting to a potential buyer. MGM was in similar straits before it was bought by Amazon, and I’m not sure that MGM’s owners got the price they really wanted.

Will this mean the end of those franchises we love?​

Paramount’s biggest draws right now are Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. Both are extremely expensive franchises with loyal fan bases, but their strengths may not be enough to entice a buyer. Star Trek is ending Discovery this year, it ended Picard last year, and it’s ending Lower Decks next year. So far there’s been no official green light for Legacy or Starfleet Academy which are rumored to be the next series. Meanwhile, after a string of films dating back to 1996, the Mission franchise seems set to end with the next (so-far unnamed) installment. Without those “tentpoles” it’s hard to attract buyers, I’d bet.

But not to fret. It’s not likely that those storied franchises will disappear over time, not as long as there’s money to be made. I suspect that we’ll see Trek for years to come. As for Mission, that’s up to producer Tom Cruise but I expect to see something in that “universe” for a while. It just may not star Cruise.

If there’s no buyer, will Paramount just shut down?​

That’s the least likely scenario. It’s not just Paramount+, it’s the former Showtime channels, it’s CBS, Comedy Central, and a few other properties. Budgets might get cut, but I don’t think that Paramount is in danger of shutting down.

Still, it does raise questions as to how long a storied name is going to carry you down the road. I think there’s a real possibility that an overseas studio could buy Paramount, as long as they could be assured that the US government wouldn’t stand in the way. It’s hard to know what the government would and wouldn’t approve of. A generation ago, the government watched NBCUniversal get sold to Vivendi, a French concern. However, given the whole story with TikTok, I can’t imagine that a company like Alibaba Pictures (Chinese) would have such an easy go of it if they tried.

Which leaves us…​

Just where we started. Paramount is losing money. Its non-executive chairwoman wants out. Someone’s going to come in and make a deal. It’s just hard to know who.

The post STREAMING SATURDAY: Why is Paramount such a tough sell? appeared first on The Solid Signal Blog.

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