Will you pay to watch broadcast TV shows—with ads?
CBS bets you will. The network just announced a stand-alone online streaming service called CBS All Access. The service will charge $5.99 a month for full seasons of the network’s current daytime and primetime shows, as well as thousands of episodes from CBS’ library.
The announcement comes the day after HBO surprised the industry by finally announcing a stand-alone streaming service that will debut next year. CBS is betting viewers will pony up for the convenience of streaming its shows anytime, anywhere, as well as access to a vast library of content.
“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 CBS chief Leslie Moonves. “This new subscription service will deliver the most of CBS to our biggest fans while being additive to the overall ecosystem. Across the board, we continue to capitalize on technological advances that help consumers engage with our world-class programming, and we look forward to serving our viewers in this new and exciting way.”
One potential challenge in the model is that HBO is a premium network that viewers are accustomed to buying, while CBS is perceived as an ad-supported so-called “free” broadcaster. While CBS is free to viewers who access their signal via over-the-air antennas, or who watch shows on CBS.com, a network spokesperson pointed out that it’s a misconception that cable and satellite customers don’t pay for the shows. “There is already a subscription fee for CBS in every viewer’s cable, satellite or telco bill,” the spokesperson said. “[CBS All Access] is additional service for outside-the-home rights that was not previously available.”
Another possible issue is that users paying for the service will still have to watch ads—albeit fewer ads than the regular CBS version of the shows. Hulu Plus subscribers are already used to this, though that service is arguably more broadly pitched than a single network-focused app. Also, current CBS series won’t be available until the day after they air. So you still risk getting spoiled on who gets voted out on Survivor (unlike HBO Go which offers episodes as soon as they air—though it’s unclear if HBO’s upcoming stand-alone streaming service will do the same). Not to mention: No NFL games.
One advantage CBS has over the HBO app: You don’t have to wait to try it out. CBS All Access launched early Thursday. The current programming lineup includes current seasons of 15 primetime shows, live-streaming of CBS local stations in 14 of the largest markets, full past seasons of eight current shows (including The Good Wife and Survivor), 5,000 episodes of CBS library shows (including every episode of Star Trek, Cheers and Twin Peaks) and access to the Big Brother feeds. For current shows, there are different tiers of availability. (For example, top-rated comedy The Big Bang Theory will have its most recent seven episodes available rather than its full season.)
“Our focus is to develop the best cross-platform video experience possible,” said CBS Interactive president Jim Lanzone. “We want our audiences to be able to watch CBS’s industry-leading content live and on demand whenever and wherever they want. CBS All Access delivers on that promise by giving our audience not only more CBS content, but also more ways to watch in a seamless user experience. We’ve integrated the service into our existing offerings and look forward to bringing it to all major digital platforms—including additional connected devices—in the coming months.”
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