While CBS Corp. has shown increasing commitment to its direct-to-consumer play, CBS All Access, pay-TV operators have said on numerous occasions that the SVOD platform might be used against the media company in future broadcast retransmission talks.
“You could give subscribers a $70 gift card and a free year of CBS All Access,” said Mediacom spokesman Thomas Larsen, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, discussing potential operator blackout strategies.
“Cable operators could say, ‘I don’t need it anymore.”
Larsen’s comments appeared just a week after CBS chief Les Moonves, speaking at UBS’ annual media and telecom conference, once again declared that the CBS broadcast network is too valuable for distributors to pass on.
And if they do, he postulated that CBS could get back to even simply be converting a third of their video customers to $5.99-a-month All Access subscriptions.
When a customer signs on for All Access, Moonves said, “we keep 100% of the dollars, so the more subscribers I get there, the better.”
Quoting unnamed sources, WSJ estimates that All Access currently has around 1.2 million subscribers.
“As All Access continues to grow, it demonstrates the value of what CBS brings to any size bundle,” CBS Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello told the paper. “And since distributors aren’t paying $6 a subscriber, we think it’s a fantastic value.”
CBS’ position is somewhat unique in the pay-TV ecosystem. It has to secure adequate carriage for premium channel Showtime, but it isn’t beholden to the large bundle of channels that, say, NBCUniversal and 21st Century Fox have to support.
This has given the CBS the ability to be aggressive in developing its own direct-to-consumer play and eschewing digital deals it finds less attractive. For example, CBS has not signed on for carriage on Dish Network’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now platforms.