Is CEO Les Moonves angling to become a digital mogul? It sure sounded that way from the series of initiatives he just announced in his quarterly call with analysts. They include an alliance with Sony’s planned online service, a 24/7 news platform — CBSN — that launches tomorrow, and a possible direct-to-consumer offering from Showtime in 2015. Few details, but here’s what he disclosed as CBS shares rose 2.4% in post market trading:
The network joins its corporate cousin Viacom in agreeing to provide programming for Sony. Since it’s a newcomer, it will pay “higher subscription fees than what we’ve ever been paid before,” Moonves says. He adds that Sony and other broadband services “will help expand the universe of opportunities for companies like CBS that make the best programming.… More deals along these lines are coming soon.”
The CEO also confirmed that he’ll introduce tomorrow CBSN, an ad-supported online news service that’s been long discussed at the company. It won’t have “the costs associated with a cable news network. This service will provide programming 24/7 to a whole new audience… We are following our viewers with CBS content wherever they are.”
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The online initiatives don’t end there: Moonves says that, just as HBO has a direct-to-consumer streaming plan for next year, “we can say fairly definitively that sometime in 2015 there’ll be a service from Showtime.” Again, no details yet.
On CBS All Access, the $5.99 a month live streaming service launched last month, the company says affiliates will have a chance to claim a piece of the action. “We’ve had a lot of conversations with them already; I think they’re excited about it,” CFO Joseph Ianniello says. He adds that it is priced at “a significant premium” to protect the pay TV ecosystem. “We don’t see it cannibalizing. We see it as additive.” Moonves added that he hopes by next year “we’ll have most of the country with a live feed” from local affiliates as well as CBS-owned stations.
Moonves fired a warning shot at Dish Network Chairman Charlie Ergen, who recently dropped Turner Broadcasting channels except TNT and TBS in a contract dispute. Dish’s deal with CBS is up at the end of November and “we’re determined to get paid fair value for our programs,” Moonves says. “As you know by now, we know how to get this done. And rest assured that we will.” He added that “Charlie had some disparaging things to say about CNN. I don’t think he can say the same thing about CBS.”
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