Part Two: ViacomCBS, Quibi, and surprisingly, Spotify


Summary of Newsletter #218 (Part Two)

More Streaming Services like ViacomCBS Show Symptoms of The Curse of The Mogul

In Part One, I wrote about about Discovery, Disney, and Comcast/NBCU, and how, in 2020, we should not be seeing Curse of the Mogul-type behavior from legacy media companies, or streaming platforms. It would imply they are not building out services that can reliably generate recurring revenue streams and keep audiences from churning out, or “pause” their accounts.

Moreover, we should not be seeing it at a time when legacy media and telecom companies are pivoting towards streaming, and when platforms like Quibi and Spotify are pivoting their business models. As we learned from Ben Horowitz, a pivot can be a live-or-die, one bullet left in the chamber type moment.

In Part Two, I dive into how ViacomCBS’s pivot is similar to NBCU’s. Then, I dive into how Quibi’s and Spotify’s recent pivots are fundamentally different from these legacy media pivots, but still manage to slip into Curse of the Mogul.

Conclusion Final Thoughts on ViacomCBS

The idea for this two-part mailing originated in the surprise departure of DTC head Peter Faricy from Discovery. I kept on thinking back to how hard CEO David Zaslav was selling Amazon’s promotion of the Food Network Kitchen in their Q1 earnings call

I would just recommend that you all go to Fire. We’re on the front page. We’re getting equal billing with Hulu and some of the other big great platforms. And there are some days where they put us on, basically take over most of the page. And so, they are a great partner, they love the product and we’re rolling together.

It was all promotion, but no sense of the Total Available Market for Food Network Kitchen, the conversion funnel on Amazon, or whether Amazon is good at converting target customers. It was a new direct-to-consumer relationship being marketed to shareholders with intangibles, and fewer details. Inevitably, I thought of Curse of the Mogul.

I realized at that moment that Discovery’s streaming strategy is in trouble. That made me think of other CEOs whose streaming strategy showed signs of being in obvious trouble, like ViacomCBS’s Bob Bakish. Or, how the Disney+ streaming strategy Bob Iger and Kevin Mayer meticulously constructed, down to the User Interface and Experience; but, now prominent users are starting to ask for a better UI/UX.

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