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Viacom CEO: Mobile-first video will thrive with 5G

Sure, there have been some "false starts," but mobile video is the future of video, Viacom Inc. CEO Bob Bakish said during an Oct. 22 keynote address at Mobile World Congress Los Angeles.

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Viacom CEO Bob Bakish
Source: Viacom

Despite plenty of user growth, many industry analysts still question the economics of companies, such as Maker Studios Inc. and AwesomenessTV Inc., that distribute their content via YouTube. But Bakish argued that it is now time for short-form and mobile-first entertainment — and Viacom is looking for partners.

As a success story, Bakish pointed to Reliance Industries Ltd.'s Jio carrier in India, which combined entertainment and device partnerships with its mobile network and built a 350 million subscriber base in less than three years. The carriers providing entertainment experiences with mobile-first partnerships understand how "sticky" content is and how it helps reduce churn out of the mobile plans, Bakish argued. He pointed to Viacom Digital Studios as an ideal partner for such opportunities.

So far, the industry has not been able to fully deliver short-form mobile video in the way consumers want, Bakish said. But the connectivity, devices and content are already in place. The opportunity will swell under next-generation wireless 5G, which is set to offer download speeds many times faster than the current 4G LTE wireless networks.

Viacom has already struck deals with more than 30 mobile operators across the world, counting both T-Mobile US Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. as partners in the U.S. on certain initiatives, he said. But Viacom "wants to work more closely with mobile network partners," Bakish said, particularly as the new, promising 5G wireless network expands and creates new opportunities for mixed reality and in-car entertainment.

"Everyone in this room can participate in mobile TV," Bakish said to the conference attendees. "The time to get involved is now."