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Moonves Eyes Shows for Netflix and Cancelation

4 Mar, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

CEO says Amazon Prime Instant Video is upping content licensing significantly

CBS Corp. chief executive Les Moonves March 4 told an investor group there are a number of CBS primetime shows ready to be licensed to subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, among others.

However, Moonves’ mantra to license only shuttered programming to SVOD portends an uncertain future for these unidentified primetime programs. Last year, long-running “CSI: Miami” was canceled and subsequently licensed to Netflix.

“Yes, there are shows we could take off that we have a deal in place with Netflix to put on [SVOD],” Moonves told attendees at the Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom confab in Palm Beach, Fla. “It’s way too early to tell [which ones get cut]. I haven’t seen the pilots or made my scheduling moves. But we do have that option in a number of shows in our schedule.”

The CEO reiterated his admiration of Netflix, saying CBS doesn’t view the SVOD pioneer as a competitor. He likes new Netflix’s series, “House of Cards,” saying the original programming is not a threat to media companies.

“They are paying a lot for our library programming,” Moonves said. “If they want to get into the original programming game, that’s only great. Again, we [also] talk to them as a production company.”

CBS is the second largest producer of original TV programming behind Warner Bros. Television.

The CEO added that Amazon Prime is also becoming a bigger SVOD player, significantly ramping up content spending. CBS and Amazon recently inked a SVOD deal that includes exclusive rights to episodes of midseason replacement show “Under the Dome” shortly after their initial broadcast.

“They are becoming a legitimate competitor with Netflix. It’s not only one game in town,” Moonves said.

The executive said SVOD has helped lure new viewers to serialized programming through re-runs and binge viewing. He said the longstanding wait-and-see approach to SVOD was predicated on not cannibalizing primetime programming. That thinking is apparently changing.

“Having seen SVOD now, we’re less concerned with that in certain cases,” he said. “When you see the amount of dollars available putting previous seasons of existing shows on, suddenly the value proposition becomes much better.”

Moonves said control of the content was the rationale for not putting CBS programming on Hulu and Netflix in the early days of streaming. He said limiting access to content on Netflix actually helped draw TV eyeballs to the shows back then. With viewers increasingly watching recorded or on-demand programming, having access to back episodes via SVOD has its merits, according to Moonves.

“We’ll do it without risking our entire schedule,” he said, adding that if a show is placed on CBS.com for streaming, it can be yanked in “10 seconds” if there is a change in programming strategy.

“At Hulu you can’t,” Moonves added. “Once you give it up, it is gone. Your child has left you.”

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