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Viacom positions streaming service Pluto TV for Spanish markets, ad growth

Viacom Inc.'s streaming platform Pluto TV on July 1 will launch Pluto TV Latino, which features Spanish-language channels, President and CEO Bob Bakish said during the Credit Suisse Annual Communications Conference on June 4.

Reports regarding a possible Viacom recombination with CBS Corp. were not specifically addressed during the session.

"We will launch a U.S. Hispanic product on July 1 as Pluto Latino, and we will launch in all of Latin America at the beginning of calendar 2020, so it really is an international product," Bakish said. Viacom completed the acquisition of the ad-supported video-on-demand over-the-top service for $340 million in 2019. The service debuted in the U.K. in October 2018 and in December 2018 in Germany and Austria and is adding more international markets.

Following its distribution deals with Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications Inc. to launch Pluto TV on the two major cable operators' video platforms, Viacom is expected to announce a third deal soon, Bakish said.

Pluto TV currently counts more than 16 million active monthly users, has partnerships with more than 150 content suppliers and offers 14 channels from Viacom's network portfolio.

Through Pluto TV, Viacom is seeing traction with advertisers trying to connect with the hard-to-reach demographic of adults 18 to 24, Bakish said. Combined with the programmer's liner offerings and other digital presence, Viacom has expanded its reach in other demos. "That's the largest reach we've had in the history of our company," Bakish said.

Regarding the company's upfront negotiations — during which marketers buy television commercial airtime long before the television season begins — Bakish said a limited number of upfront market deals have been concluded. With broadcasters seeking CPM (cost per thousand) increases in the high teens, the market probably will not move all quickly, he noted. Still, he said with not enough inventory to satisfy client needs, that relative scarcity will drive high CPM growth.

"Ultimately, this will be a great upfront for our company and really the next leg forward in our growth strategy," said Bakish.

Bakish expects positive upfront results, including registering domestic ad growth for the first time in five years during its third fiscal quarter ending June 30 and for all of its fiscal 2019. He attributed the amelioration to progress made by Viacom's six flagship networks and the continued expansion of its Advanced Marketing Solutions business.

That unit, which accounted for $300 million in revenue during the company's fiscal 2018, will account for 20% of domestic ad sales overall this year, including contributions from Pluto TV. The company has been "very pleased with the early traction we've seen on monetization," according to Bakish.

He noted that with only half of the inventory being sold today, "there's tremendous upside there." Viacom executives have estimated that Pluto TV represented a $1 billion advertising opportunity in the U.S. over time.