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CBS CFO: Not Only Doing Deals That Benefit Netflix

24 May, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ recent comments that the subscription video-on-demand pioneer would be more selective licensing third-party content going forward doesn’t concern CBS Corp. — one of its biggest TV programming contributors, CFO Joseph Ianniello told an investor group.

Speaking May 22 at the B. Riley & Co. investor event in Los Angeles, Ianniello said the data Netflix is gleaning from subscribers regarding what shows are working is no different than what CBS deals with every day with TV ratings.

“We have a very strong relationship with Netflix,” Ianniello said. “Our deal goes for another two years. We are in constant dialog with them. We have volume and they still need product. And we produce that beachfront property that they covet.”

CBS has a longstanding policy of not licensing current primetime TV shows on SVOD, opting instead to sell rights only to canceled catalog. The media company broke from that policy earlier this year when it announced a deal with Amazon Prime Instant Video to make episodes from the pending summer TV series “Under the Dome,” based on a best-selling Stephen King novel, available for streaming four days their initial broadcast.

Ianniello said CBS’ current hold as No. 1 in primetime TV ratings means it will look to premium-price programming to alternative distribution channels on both exclusive and non-exclusive deals.

“If [Netflix sees] some value in that, we can talk,” the CFO said. “We don’t go in and say we won’t do a certain type of deal with them. We will evaluate all deals and if it makes sense for us … we’re certainly not only going to do deals that make sense for Netflix. I don’t see that relationship slowing down.”

Indeed, CBS’ decision to license current content from The CW and CBS show “The Good Wife” to Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime was predicated on the former’s younger demo and likelihood to view programming on alternative devices, according to Ianniello. CBS co-owns The CW with Time Warner.

“We try to be distribution agnostic,” he said.

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