February 3, 2020 / 1:23 PM / 16 days ago

ViacomCBS plans Latam push for streaming service Pluto TV

FILE PHOTO: The ViacomCBS logo is displayed on the Nasdaq MarketSite to celebrate the company's merger, in New York, U.S., December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - ViacomCBS will launch its free streaming platform Pluto TV in countries around Latin America in late March, an executive told Reuters, a move that could raise a challenge to subscription services in the region like Netflix.

Pierluigi Gazzolo, who is spear-heading the roll-out of the advertising-based platform, told Reuters the firm could have an edge in Latin America, where consumers may prefer to avoid the regular costs of subscription.

“I think Latin America is the perfect market for this product,” Gazzolo said in a telephone interview ahead of the official announcement. “You have the (users) who have pay-TV, who are consuming more and more and are going to be able to consume it, as well as those who have never been able to pay.”

Free, advertising-based services such as Pluto TV and upcoming Peacock from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal are seen as potential challengers that could limit the pricing power of paid platforms like Netflix and Amazon.com’s Prime Video, according to research from Citigroup.

Pluto TV, which Viacom acquired at the beginning of 2019 in a $340 million deal, has around 20 million monthly average users in the United States.

In the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America, Gazzolo said the platform would start with 24 channels, rising to nearly 100 by end of the year. He declined to give investment figures or user projections.

“Pluto TV is in the lower part of the pyramid, which is wider, with many more people, that is the people in Latin America that are not going to pay and are willing to see publicity to not pay,” he said.

The company is also evaluating the launch of Pluto TV in Brazil by the end of the year, Gazzolo added.

Reporting by Eliana Raszewski; Additional reporting by Lucila Sigal; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Dan Grebler

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