Arriving late to the streaming wars is apparently better than never getting involved in them at all. That's what investors seem to think, at least.
Just look at the huge stock gains for ViacomCBS and Discovery so far in 2021.
The Paramount+ streaming network finally launched Thursday after a lot of fanfare, including investors sending shares of its parent company, ViacomCBS, up 90% this year.
That makes ViacomCBS the second best performing stock in the S&P 500, trailing only another recent entry in the streaming skirmishes: cable network Discovery, which launched its own discovery+ streaming service in the US in January.
Shares of Discovery -— which owns Food Network, HGTV, TLC and OWN as well as its flagship Discovery Channel -— have more than doubled year-to-date.
ViacomCBS and Discovery join an increasingly crowded streaming landscape that includes Disney+, Comcast's Peacock, Apple TV+, Amazon's Prime Video, Hulu, HBO Max from CNN owner AT&T and, of course, Netflix.
For now, it seems that investors are hoping that as long as ViacomCBS and Discovery have a major streaming presence, consumers will follow.
But there are growing concerns about streaming fatigue. How many subscriptions will consumers really want to pay for? And isn't the point of cutting the cable cord in favor of streaming services such as Roku to save money on monthly entertainment bills?
ViacomCBS and Discovery boast big stars and popular shows from their legacy cable networks. Paramount+ came about as a result of Viacom reuniting with CBS in 2019, and is technically a rebranding of the former CBS All Access service. With the ballyhooed relaunch, big chunks of TV and movie content from the old Viacom — including TV shows from Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central as well as films from the Paramount studio — are being added.
But as Disney has clearly shown, the way to generate real buzz (and get tons of subscribers) is with new, must-see original content like "The Mandalorian" and "WandaVision." Netflix, of course, has too many hit shows to list.
Hulu, Amazon and Apple feature several popular award-winning originals, and HBO Max is off to a promising start with "The Flight Attendant."
So it remains to be seen whether Paramount+ and discovery+ will be able to produce the type of shows that people will talk about around the office water cooler (or, in this work-from-home world, on Zoom and Slack).
If not, shares of both media companies are unlikely to keep leading the market for much longer.