Jo Ann Ross knows Netflix and Disney+ are coming for her streaming advertisers, but she has the first mover advantage.
Jo Ann Ross, Paramount Global’s head of US advertising sales, is in a good place, and we’re not just talking about New York’s Carnegie Hall, the site of their annual upfront. With ad-supported Paramount+ tier and number one on FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) Pluto TV under her purview, Ross has two reasons for popping champagne at the party immediately following Wednesday’s advertiser slate presentation. And those are just her streaming reasons.
“We were first, and I think we have an advantage as a leader in this space,” Ross said of acquiring Pluto in 2019 and maturing CBS All Access into Paramount+. We think so too.
While Pluto’s leadership position at FAST isn’t exactly contested, the same designation for Paramount+ at AVOD becomes complicated as the space gets even more crowded. On Tuesday, the Disney upfront event only lightly updated media buyers and reporters on the announcement months ago that Disney+ would add an ad-supported tier later this year. But that happens. Netflix is also expected to offer an option with commercials by the end of 2022.
Ross, who years ago (publicly) foresaw Netflix’s upcoming move to AVOD, said the surge in AVOD announcements is “just another confirmation for us.”
“Okay, come to the party,” she said. “We are ahead of the curve. It’s a great ecosystem to be in and we planted our flag in the ground early on and we continue to put our money into action.”
If Ross doesn’t seem shaken, that’s because she isn’t. The streaming wars will be “all about the content” and “all about the intellectual property,” Ross said, “and we’ve got the broadest content.”
With news, sports, entertainment, children’s programming, and a major film studio all pouring into Paramount+, that’s pretty much it. One particular thing Ross is known to not have is Yellowstone. At least not when streaming. Taylor Sheridan’s hit western, linear television’s most-watched show (11.3 million total viewers per episode seven days late, according to Nielsen), airs first on Paramount Network, which sells Ross. But oddly enough, NBCUniversal’s Peacock has the streaming rights to the OG series.
We asked Ross if she was “past the point of frustration,” a phrase we introduced that she bravely parroted because she didn’t also have “Yellowstone” on Paramount+. Just think of all those digital dollars that inexplicably go to Comcast instead! (There are plenty of examples of this, to be fair: NBCU initially made the same mistake itself with The Office on Netflix, and Ross’ South Park was licensed to HBO Max for years — and hundreds of millions of dollars.)
“Personally I’m past the point of frustration because ‘Yellowstone’ is a hit across the board and now we have other shows from the Taylor Sheridan universe that are hugely successful including ‘1883’ and ‘Mayor of Kingstown’ .” She replied. “I am thrilled that we are part of this universe with Taylor and there is more to come.”
Among those “additional episodes” is the previously announced “1883” sequel series “1932.” (Both of these are “Yellowstone” sequels.) Paramount will “keep expanding” the sprawling Sheridan landscape (make your own obvious joke here about how you split the difference and get a Dutton Family update in the 1970s or so ) and are “very, very well positioned there,” Ross added. And she will sell them all.