Viacom Struggles with Paramount+ and Nickelodeon While Disney Pulls Away


For the past many months, it had looked like The Walt Disney Company’s Disney+ streaming service might run into serious competition as other services caught up. Now, heading into the summer of 2021, it’s increasingly apparent that Disney and Netflix are the two juggernauts, and everyone else is catching scraps. While Netflix continues to hold a tremendous lead over Disney+, the falloff until the next tier of streaming services is massive, and Viacom’s Paramount+ — which could have been Disney’s biggest competition — is floundering.

Consider that Paramount+ is available at the low, low price of just $5.00 a month, and it’s easy to see how consumers could easily pick up the service. Yet for Q2 of their fiscal year, the subscription combined with Viacom’s Showtime streaming service for only an additional 6 million subscribers. Essentially, Paramount+ has roughly one-third of Disney+ consumers.

Image Courtesy: Tech Crunch

A bigger hole is forming for Viacom, however. Whereas Paramount+ is growing slowly, their children’s programming platform, Nickelodeon, is imploding. That’s not an overstatement.

Since July of 2017, Nickelodeon’s viewership has dropped from 1.3 million average viewers per week to a June of 2021 average of only 372,000. In only four years, Nickelodeon has dropped more than two thirds of its audience. That is catastrophically bad for the cable channel, but with cable on the way out, maybe it’s not so bad? The catch here is that it is, in fact, that bad and perhaps worse, simply because Nickelodeon seems to be the primary driving force behind new subscribers to Paramount+.

ViacomCBS’ says its original programming, content from cable brands and Paramount movies drove “almost half” of Paramount+ subscriber engagement. And globally, Nickelodeon programming was an even more “significant” factor in signups and engagement. —

It’s thus easy to see why Viacom is leaning so heavily into older Nickelodeon content. Perhaps hoping to capitalize on what once worked versus what is rapidly losing audience, the company has resurrected Rugrats and iCarly (among other shows) to try to drive nostalgic fans to the service. But there are signs that Viacom has not learned any lessons and is retrofitting these old shows with the same principles that have resulted in Nickelodeon’s huge loss in ratings. Even with a show about infants, much of the headlines have been about a retconned, now-lesbian character; whatever your thoughts on that issue, it’s hard to see how a children’s show about infants is best served in advertising when the news is all about sexuality.

Nickelodeon’s latest fiasco was a Pride Month video that you can see above. Featuring a drag queen singing to prepubescents, the YouTube version was downvoted to such a degree that they’ve now hidden the ratio. It’s one thing to take a position on issues of sexuality, it’s another entirely to propagandize those issues for young children. Switch that song to any topic for which you disagree and see if would approve your children watching it.

Meanwhile, Disney has also struggled as of late with growing their streaming service, but for different reasons. One of the hard lessons for major corporations getting into streaming is that there are new positives and negatives that must be navigated. Yes, it’s great to have that constant revenue flow. No, it’s not fun to have all your content harmed when one mistake is make within a single studio. Case in point, Disney suffered mightily after screwing up their Gina Carano situation. It wasn’t just Star Wars that was harmed – subscribers jettisoned the whole service.

Gina Carano at Star Wars the Mandalorian event

But for Disney, the news is relatively good going into their third quarter. While we expect Disney to continue to fall below internal expectations, our own analysis of data is showing their new series Loki to be formidable. Already the show has generated more interest than Wandavision’s opening, and the overall reviews for the premiere are tremendous. The show has avoided the controversies that many new content additions seem eager to garner, and the story itself appears timeless. That doesn’t mean Loki will be fantastic, or end in a way that buoys Disney+ subscription numbers, but it’s a great start for the new show.

Shows like Loki are why Disney+ might just be able to keep services like Paramount+ far at bay. For all the criticisms at Disney over their handling of social issues, at least they’re doing better than Viacom. There’s still the major issue of China for Disney in a way that Viacom doesn’t have to navigate, but it’s difficult to forecast how that will all progress. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if Viacom will follow Disney’s suit in deleting their cable channels over the next year. For Nickelodeon, it might actually be time to bury the slime.

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