CBS Launches Subscription Online Video Service

/ Oct 16, 2014


Yesterday, it was HBO. Today, it’s CBS.

The company has launched a new SVOD service called “CBS All Access” that lets users watch select live and on-demand programming from the broadcast network, without requiring a cable subscription.

Available for $5.99 a month, CBS All Access is available on and via the network’s apps on iOS and Android devices.

And the service’s content library is deep. Subscribers have access to full current seasons of 15 primetime shows, including new episodes the day after they air on the network. In addition to that, CBS All Access offers full past seasons of eight current series, including “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Survivor,” as well as more than 5,000 episodes of classic programs from the CBS library like “Star Trek,” “Cheers,” and “Twin Peaks.”

The service will also feature additional content from live events and specials that CBS broadcasts, including the Grammy Awards and Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

But that’s not the most interesting part about CBS All Access. Along with all of the on-demand content, the service also offers live streams of 14 local stations that CBS owns, including those in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, and Philadelphia. This means digital access to CBS primetime programming without having to wait for it to arrive online the next day.

To be fair, there are a few caveats. For instance, CBS broadcasts NFL games on Thursday nights and on Sundays. These won’t be available on CBS All Access as the network doesn’t have streaming rights to the games. Also, some primetime shows like “The Big Bang Theory” won’t be available on-demand. That particular show is owned by Warner Bros., which controls post-broadcast streaming rights.

CBS All Access clearly functions as a mixture of Hulu and Aereo.* This is apparent in its programming model, as well as monetization structure. In other words, there will be ads on the service. The live streams will come with the same ads that appear on the regular TV broadcasts. On-demand programming will also feature pre-rolls and mid-rolls, with dynamic ad insertion ensuring none of the ads are outdated, CBS said.

The classic programming will be ad-free.

“CBS All Access is another key step in the company’s long-standing strategy of monetizing our local and national content in the ways that viewers want it,” said CEO Les Moonves in a statement. “This new subscription service will deliver the most of CBS to our biggest fans while being additive to the overall ecosystem.”

That last part is important to note. It’s no secret that the CBS audience skews older — not exactly the leading drivers of digital video consumption. Plus, the broadcast network is technically available for free to anyone with an antenna. What CBS is attempting to do with CBS All Access is reach its “biggest fans” — the young people who love the network’s shows but rarely watch them live and/or at home.

It won’t end with CBS, either. Moonves has previously stated CBS Corp.-owned Showtime’s interest in potentially launching an over-the-top service uncoupled from the pay-TV bundle.

Maybe that day in the future, when people subscribe to individual apps instead of bundles of channels, is closer than we previously thought.

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