It sure sounded like a direct-to-consumer online option is under consideration when CBS COO Joseph Ianniello spoke today to investors at Nomura's Digital Media Conference in NYC. Nothing in Showtime's contracts with cable and satellite providers "restricts us from doing something direct to consumer," he says. He also noted that more than 10M households receive broadband but not pay TV. The company must "evolve as a business to be sure we're where consumers want to be. ...You have to give it to them on their terms."
Would CBS really want to encourage cord cutting by offering Showtime series including Ray Donovan, Nurse Jackie, Masters Of Sex, and Homeland to people who don't subscribe to cable or satellite? Perhaps. But Ianniello also might simply be rattling his saber to persuade distributors to do more to market the service. Showtime is "in less than 20% of U.S. households," he observed. That would gives it an opportunity to grow without attacking the current system that requires people to pay for channels that they don't watch.
In response to another question, the COO says that CBS could make a big acquisition -- but doesn't covet anything. "We look at every deal. We get paid to look at that stuff. I have a dedicated team: that's what they do." That could include picking up Lionsgate's stake in their TVGN (TV Guide Network) joint venture. "There's built-in flexibility in the contract that anticipates it," he says. But "it's too early" to do that now.