Bob Bakish Says Paramount Global Is Prepared for Ongoing Writers Strike: ‘We Have a Lot in the Can’

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish addressed the writers strike during Paramount’s Q1 earnings call Thursday, stating that writers are “an essential part of creating content” and “we hope we can come to a resolution that works for everyone fairly quickly.”

However, the Paramount chief added, “it’s also fair to say there’s a really big gap.”

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“Obviously, we’ve been planning for this, we do have many levers to pull and that’ll allow us to manage through the strike, even if it’s for an extended duration,” Bakish said. “In terms of those levers, we have a lot in the can, so to speak, content in the can. So with the exception of things like late-night, consumers really won’t notice anything for a while. Add to that a broad range of reality, unscripted, where we’re definitely a leader, as well as sports, and that’s not effected, so we can do more in those areas, if necessary.”

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Bakish added that offshore production, which Paramount has been “moving to leverage pre-strike anyway,” is part of the strike strategy, as is relying on its library content that can be pulled from to fill schedule holes.

“So we’re well positioned to navigate that,” Bakish said, adding that as far as the financial impact goes, “it really ultimately depends on duration of strike.”

The Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers (AMPTP) ended contract talks with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on Monday night, hours before the contract expiration deadline. The WGA responded by calling for a strike to begin on Tuesday, with picket lines forming in front of the Peacock NewFront in NYC, as well as the Paramount, Netflix and Fox offices in Los Angeles. Pickets turned around again Wednesday, with the WGA East focusing on Netflix’s NYC HQ and LA writers heading to multiple studios.

In a statement Monday, the AMPTP said the major sticking points are the guild’s proposal for a TV staffing minimum and a minimum number of weeks of guaranteed work on a TV season. The WGA outlined the major differences between the two sides, which include the AMPTP’s refusal to consider a streaming residual that would pay more for hit shows, as well as the WGA’s concerns over lack of transparency in viewership data and studio’s utilizing AI to write scripts.

“As we look ahead, we are producing popular content across genres and platforms,” Bakish said in his opening remarks at the top of the Paramount earnings call Thursday. “And while the writers’ strike may cause some disruption, we are confident in our ability to manage through it, given the many levers we have to pull. We will continue to deploy content across platforms in an efficient way – from theatrical movies that create revenue at the box office then move to Paramount+, to CBS entertainment, news and sports content, which drives massive reach and engagement in broadcast and in streaming. And more.”

Shares of Paramount Global tumbled as much as 25% in early trading Thursday after the media conglomerate reported disappointing first-quarter 2023 results and slashed its dividend.

The owner of CBS, Nickelodeon and the Paramount movie studio reported its first-quarter loss came to $1.12 billion, or $1.81 per share, compared with a profit of $775 million, or 58 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Paramount revenue was essentially flat, down 1%, on shortfalls in its TV media and filmed entertainment units, while its streaming operations saw revenue rise 39%.

Paramount reported a loss of $511 million in its direct-to-consumer operations, compared to a loss of $456 million in the year-earlier quarter. Paramount+ added 4.1 million subscribers in the quarter, coming to a total of 60 million overall, per the company.

VIP+ Data: Media Companies Most Impacted in a Strike

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