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CBS Licensing 'CSI' and 'NCIS' Episodes to Domestic SVOD for the First Time

12 Feb, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Foreign SVOD content licensing bigger than Netflix and Amazon Prime combined

CBS Corp., erstwhile observer to licensing primetime network programing to online video services, has for the first time opened the content vault to SVOD for domestic access to “CSI” and “NCIS” episodes. 

No specific agreements have been announced, but they are pending, CEO Les Moonves told analysts on the Feb. 12 fiscal call.

The media company has refrained from licensing primetime CBS content to SVOD, preferring to sell older episodes through traditional syndication channels. As a result, “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: New York” are available on Netflix only because they no longer air on broadcast.

Moonves said the new philosophy of licensing back episodes from existing primetime shows reflects an evolving strategy how CBS monetizes its content.

“We have [hundreds] episodes ready to go, so you can imagine how lucrative this will be,” Moonves said. “We’re seeing more and more that streaming the right shows brings new distribution options into the mix, and then brings those viewers to [primetime TV] for the latest episode.”

The CEO said streaming viewer skew younger and more affluent than traditional TV viewers, with CBS All Access subscriptions exceeding expectations. The SVOD saw its biggest surge in subs around the recent Grammys telecast.

To help mollify affiliate stations and multichannel video program distributors, Moonves said CBS All Access would share “additional revenue opportunities” going forward. 

Separately, following last quarter’s launch of CBS All Access subscription streaming service (and ad-supported CBSN), CBS in late January licensed Showtime to Bell Media in Canada — the first time for the pay-TV channel. Bell intends to launch a SVOD service taking on Netflix Canada, incorporating original programing created by CBS.

“We are confident this agreement will lead to a new wave of international licensing revenue for our cable segment,” Moonves said, adding that that the prospect for an international Showtime would have been impossible since CBS didn’t own most of the channel’s programming.

With content ownership key to brand awareness in new markets, Moonves said “it’s a very different story” for Showtime. “It is potentially a revolutionary deal for Showtime.”

He said the deal underscores the ability to monetize Showtime as a full-service network in foreign markets. Moonves has previously indicated Showtime would be launched domestically as a standalone SVOD — likely around the time HBO bows its OTT service.

“We’re looking at Showtime and potential for [SVOD]. There are various permutations that we’re working at, and we’ll probably share as many details as HBO did [Feb. 11], which is not many at all,” Moonves quipped.

He said discussions are in progress to license content to Dish Network’s recently launched Sling TV SVOD. CBS is also licensing content to Sony’s pending PlayStation Vue Internet TV service.

COO Joseph Ianniello streaming rights to Thursday night NFL broadcasts remain ongoing.

Regardless, Ianniello said the rush to create SVOD platforms resulted in CBS licensing more content to foreign-based streaming services than Netflix and Amazon Prime combined.

“We found that [international SVOD] data point really telling in that we focus most of our time on the U.S. opportunity, but when you look abroad, the competition from existing players and new entrants, it really opens up a new market place for us,” he said.


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