Multi-screen video

CBS Eyes Online Streaming Deals

CBS is now selling TV everywhere. In the company's quarterly earnings report last week, CBS CEO Les Moonves rattled off a slew of distribution outlets that are now taking content from CBS Studios.

In a first-of-its-kind deal, for example, ABC Inc. has purchased a series produced by CBS Corp. (NYSE: CBS). That adds to programming that CBS is already creating for The CW Television Network and premium cable network Showtime Networks Inc.

Moonves also emphasized that, "Going forward, we will be producing more and more shows for more and more outlets, including major streaming companies and other emerging distributors."

While CBS is still an over-the-air broadcast TV network, the company is increasingly willing to expand its options for content distribution. That includes other traditional TV outlets, but also, apparently, subscription streaming services. The move isn't a transition away from free TV, but it does illustrate how CBS doesn't want to be tied solely to the broadcast model.

It's a perspective that may have been heightened when Aereo Inc. threatened CBS's content licensing revenue. In 2013, Moonves said he would shift CBS TV behind a cable paywall if the courts allowed companies to bypass retransmission-consent fees for free broadcast television. That threat is off the table now thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling against Aereo, but it may have contributed to CBS's willingness to experiment with new methods of distribution. (See Supreme Court Halts Aereo's Flight and 'Free' TV Model Under Threat.)

For more of Light Reading's coverage of multiscreen video trends, visit our multiscreen video content channel.

Meanwhile, the fact that CBS is actively negotiating deals with streaming companies also means that traditional pay-TV providers are facing increased competition in the race to stock up on valuable original content. So far, Moonves hasn't disclosed which streaming companies it will sell content to, but he did suggest that new partnership announcements are imminent. "I think shortly, you're going to hear us being in business with some of the SVoDs with original program[ming]."

Moonves also indicated that more original content is on the CBS roadmap. "I think we have over 30 shows in production, and that's only going to grow," he said.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

mendyk 8/12/2014 | 8:15:21 AM
Re: Follow the leader The networks don't actually own too many of their broadcast outlets, so they've effectively been focused on the content business for some time. They will not cause too much internal disruption for themselves by going more heavily into OTT. Their affiliates, however, are looking at some serious changes, which is why some local broadcasters are now looking to cash out and sell their spectrum rights. But part of the problem at the Big Four networks is they've kind of lost their touch as content purveyors. That's what happens when spreadsheets are the ultimate determinant in programming.
danielcawrey 8/11/2014 | 8:29:19 PM
Re: Follow the leader The networks need to think of themselves as content providers. The reason why is that the idea of a 'network' has been taken over by cable and streaming video. 

I believe that CBS and its contemporaries can survive – they just need to start thinking differently about how they deliver what they are good at delivering. Shows. Content. 
msilbey 8/11/2014 | 6:01:50 PM
Re: Follow the leader Yes and no on the marginalization of old TV. There's still a lot of money in broadcast advertising (even though the networks are dependent on retrans fees too), but it's not a big shock to see CBS diversifying its distribution.

In the long run, whether or not we continue to have a free tier of TV will depend on how well the advertising models evolve.
mendyk 8/11/2014 | 5:07:32 PM
Follow the leader This whole CBS content play is kind of amusing. CBS led the way in devaluing network TV content by larding its schedule with reality programming because those shows are much cheaper to produce. Now that HBO, Netflix, et al. are getting all kinds of love for higher-quality conventional programming, CBS wants back in. But it looks like it may want to firewall the good stuff (assuming it can deliver that stuff) for what in essence will be a pay-per-view model. Again, another sign that the old model for video service delivery is being marginalized.
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