CBS: Growing audience by delivering online, ‘the way viewers want it’

By Jim O'Neill on Nov 11 2016 at 8:30 AM
CBS: Growing audience by delivering online, ‘the way viewers want it’

CBS now has live streams of affiliate content available is nearly all markets nationwide on its CBS All Access streaming platform, but it’s the VOD content that has been more critical to the service’s use and growth.

Speaking at a Wells Fargo investor conference, COO Joseph Ianniello said the service is just one part of a multi-distribution plan CBS has pursued. In addition to its own direct to consumer play, CBS also has agreed to be part of Google’s Unplugged Cloud TV service and has plans to appear elsewhere.

“We don’t want to hitch our wagon to just one service,” he told the conference.

That’s in line with what  CBS Chief Les Moonves said during the company’s Q3 earnings call last week. Moonves said CBS’s goal is “to be in every new bundle.”

“We are in conversations with virtually everyone, some we're closer to making deals with than others,” Moonves said. “But at the end of the day we think we offer a great value, and we think we're very fair in what we ask for. But once again, we value our content and they need to be reasonable in what they pay us.”

The network has been aggressive – and flexible – in its efforts to get out to non-traditional and younger viewers, and has plans to further tweak All Access as it moves forward.

In addition to recently announcing a higher-priced iteration of the service that doesn’t have ads ($9.99/mo. compared to the ad-supported version’s price of $6.99/mo.), CBS next year says it will offer a combo package of CBS and Showtime OTT.

“The more people are exposed to these platforms, the more they like them,” he said.

CBS also is planning to add more original, streaming only content moving forward. In addition to its Big Brother: Over the Top spin off launched in Q3, it also plans to add The Good Fight, a spinoff of The Good Wife franchise in February and the delayed but much anticipated online-only release of Star Trek: Discovery in May.

Moonves said Star Trek coming only to All Access showed just how important CBS thinks streaming is to its future.

“We could have sold to Netflix, we could have sold it to Amazon. SHOWTIME would have loved to have it. The CBS Television Network would love to have it,” he said. “We had a wealth of opportunity, but once again, I think it told people how important All Access was to us. I think our goal of getting 4 million subs by 2020 is greatly enhanced by the knowledge that we're taking the family jewels and a really special property that has millions of huge fans for Star Trek and putting it on CBS All Access will help give that a great boost.”

All Access could eventually have NFL football, a big draw that has struggled in its Monday and Thursday games, and even is seeing depressed viewership on Sunday.

“We are in fairly active discussions about putting it on All Access,” Moonves said. “The NFL is still extremely important to us, and we're hoping that we're able to reach agreement with them to get it there. It will make it even better.

“I think everybody is trying to figure out what life looks like in the brave new world.”

Part of the brave new world could include an international push for CBS All Access, especially as CBS owns such a large percentage of its content. Going direct to consumers, instead of through partners, would be an interesting play.

Moonves called out All Access as one of the revenue growth drivers during the quarter. It – and CBS’s other OTT network, Showtime – each are estimate to have more than 1 million subscribers. In general, he said, the streaming industry is seeing a “fairly astronomical” growth of subscribers.

“We’re growing our audience by delivering our content in the way that viewers want it,” Moonves said.

Stay tuned.

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