Paramount+ Chief Programming Officer Says Theatrical Windows Have Benefited the Streaming Service

Seven months after “Top Gun: Maverick” first hit theaters, the blockbuster Tom Cruise sequel is finally coming to the Paramount+ streaming service. But Paramount+ Chief Programming Officer Tanya Giles says the theatrical window for “Maverick” and all other new release Paramount Pictures films in 2022 actually benefited the streaming service, as Paramount+ found ways to engage subscribers when new releases were in theaters.

Interest in streaming the original “Top Gun” on Paramount+ soared 500% when “Maverick” came out, Giles said, and similarly the releases of “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and “Jackass Forever” in theaters saw massive upticks in activity on “Sonic 1” and the “Jackass” library on Paramount+.

“I think we have a general rule of thumb of a fast-follow and we’ve become more bullish in our release strategy,” Giles, a Viacom veteran since 1997 who got her start as a senior analyst at Nickelodeon, told TheWrap for this week’s Office With a View.

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Giles pointed to the release of the horror hit “Smile” on the streaming service right before Thanksgiving to capitalize on the Halloween success of the film. Giles said there are “no big radical changes” to windowing in 2023, adding that they’re continuing with “the strategy as we have it” for next year’s big releases like “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” and “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.”

Coordinating content tailored to the growing audience for the streamer — which has gotten younger and added more families since transforming from CBS All Access to Paramount+ — is key, and Giles singled out their programming of new “Yellowstone” franchise spinoffs as a fix, of sorts, for the streamer’s lack of availability for the Paramount Network hit (Peacock currently holds the streaming license for the flagship show).

“I think that our solution to ‘Yellowstone’ is we expanded the ‘Yellowstone’ universe,” Giles said. “So if you were looking for ‘Yellowstone,’ we had ‘1883’ waiting for you, we have ‘1923’ coming.”

These smart pivots are designed to not only add subscribers to Paramount+, but keep them engaged on the streaming service regardless of what motivated them to originally sign up.

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Read on for more insight into what drives Paramount+ programming decisions, and what audience metrics are motivating how content is programmed for the streaming service.

What do you now know that you didn’t know when you first started this job?
I joined in June of last year, so it was it was launch year for Paramount+. We’ve learned a lot since launch in general. 2021 was our transition year going from CBS All Access to Paramount+, so the learnings there were, as we were growing, how we were bringing the audience in, who were we attracting. I would say we’ve gotten smarter about our content strategy, and how we are really catering to that whole household. Certainly one of the big shifts was to bring more kids and families into the service. We’re the streaming home of Nickelodeon and with so many big franchises and shows and movies, we really ramped up our efforts there. And as a result, our audience got much younger, we have more families.

How would you describe your average Paramount+ subscriber?
We don’t really think about it in terms of average subscribers, instead we like to think of them as our audience cohorts — it’s what drew somebody to the service, what compelled somebody to [subsribe]. To me, that motivating factor tells you a lot about what they’re looking for and their audience needs. So what they signed up for, what gets them to watch more frequently and then what got them to stay. We are very focused on an audience member’s content journey while they are in the service. So for example, the NFL is a huge driver of starts — no surprise, right? We stream the local games from CBS. So if you’re like myself, a Buffalo Bills fan, and you want to watch the game and you sign up for Paramount+ to do so, what did you do next? If you have a one year old or a small child? Did you then get another profile and have your child watch “Blue’s Big City Adventure”? Did you and your spouse then say, “Oh my gosh, I’ve heard so much about ‘Tulsa King,’ I’ll watch this,” and then start coming weekly? That’s the behavior that we study.

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How is all of this information and data driving programming decisions for 2023?
I think we’re doubling down on what works. We’ve had a great success with our franchises, certainly with the Taylor Sheridan universe. We just released “Tulsa King,” we have “1923” coming in January, we will have “Mayor of Kingstown.” So we continue to have a strong hit ratio with those. In 2023, we’re looking at a regular drumbeat of consistent series. Really thinking about the cohorts we have, punctuating with some sports events like we have. So for for the fall, we had the NFL, so we had some of our big dramas, “Tulsa King,” we had “SEAL Team,” we had “Criminal Minds,” and as we move into the playoffs we’re making sure that we consistently bring out some more shows and that’s “The Mayor of Kingstown,” “Criminal Minds” will pass off to “Teen Wolf” and “Wolf Pack,” so you have more of those chiller-type dramas. That consistent drumbeat of series that are punctuated by big viewing live events.

In that regard, are you looking at something like a “Transformers” or like a “Mission: Impossible” sequel, and from a programming perspective saying, “Man, it would be great if we had a new ‘Transformers’ TV series to launch around the same time or a new ‘Mission: Impossible’ series to launch around the same time?”
You know, all conversations around franchises are being had. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for all these franchises and the possibilities of what they could be.

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Are there any discussions about finally making “Yellowstone” available to stream on Paramount+? Or is that license still tied up and too complicated?
I think that our solution to “Yellowstone is we expanded the “Yellowstone” universe. So if you were looking for “Yellowstone,” we had “1883” waiting for you, we have “1923” coming. Fans enjoyed it on Paramount Network — 16 million of them — and then that same night, if you wanted more, you could go to Paramount+ immediately, go to see “1883,” “1923” is coming and it’ll also be launched during the “Yellowstone” season. We saw a big a big jump in engagement in “1883” when “Yellowstone” Season 5 debuted and this is a year after it’s premiered. So I think there’s a lot of enthusiasm around that whole universe and we’re really thrilled to be expanding on it with our series that we have.

So is “Yellowstone” coming to Paramount+ off the table?
I think a lot of has been written about that. I have nothing new to add there.

What’s one thing you think most people don’t know about Paramount+?
I think it’s that there’s something for everyone in your household on Paramount+. The fact that we are the streaming home of Nickelodeon, we are the streaming home of all your favorite CBS shows that includes anything from “Survivor” to “Blue Bloods” to the new “Criminal Minds.” We have all the No. 1 movies of this year — six No. 1 hits from Paramount now live on Paramount+.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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