CBS may be hurting from the nearly two-week old blackout born of its carriage dispute with AT&T, but CBS All Access is reaping some of the benefits.
“We have seen an uptick since AT&T blacked us out,” admitted an almost sheepish CBS Interactive boss Marc DeBevoise today at TCA of the small screen battle and the subscription streamer.
CBS stations in NYC, LA and across the nation have been dark since July 20 as the 2012-inked contract with AT&T-owned satellite giant DirecTV, DirecTV Now and U-verse cable systems officially expired. When fans of the just renewed Love Island and Big Brother turn on their local CBS station in the affected markets, they find a slate from DirecTV that says, “CBS has removed this channel from your lineup despite our request to keep it available to you.”
Advocating that loyal CBS viewers leap over to now sued and AT&T-backed Locast app, the slate adds, “you can also watch some CBS programming on cbs.com or with a subscription to the CBS All Access App.”
We “appreciate the free marketing,” a deadpan DeBevoise said Thursday on-stage at the Beverly Hilton with circumspect Content EVP Julie McNamara seated next to him. Now aiming towards a full menu of all Star Trek all the time, a TV version of the David Bowie cult flick The Man Who Fell To Earth, a Jordan Peele-led Twilight Zone revival, The Good Fight and more, a bare bones CBS All Access was first launched in 2014.
Though CBS and DirecTV are said to be talking, there is little urgency to the discussion in the heat of summer as CBS All Access picks up more paying customers. As 10 million DirecTV subscribers go without their Blue Bloods reruns, the expectation is that the return of the NFL in the fall will create pressure at AT&T HQ to score a resolution.
In a statement mere hours after everything went dark on CBS on DirecTV, AT&T said it had “offered to pay CBS an unprecedented rate increase and the highest fee we currently pay to any major broadcast network group. CBS has refused.”
The telecommunications giant and WarnerMedia owner also alleged that CBS was refusing to allow AT&T to offer CBS All Access, the subscription streaming service, in the manner that Amazon, Apple and Roku do. The company therefore proposed that CBS was trying to “upsell” pay-TV consumers, forcing them to pay $6 or $10 a month for All Access for either the limited-advertising or no-advertising version.
Before darkness fell, CBS said AT&T had proposed “unfair terms” that were “well below those agreed to by its competitors.”
Just so you have a notion of the scope of the matter. As well as the City That Never Sleeps and the City of Angels, CBS in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore are all dark. As well, the plug has been pulled so to speak on 117 CBS stations and affiliates on DirecTV Now, CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel are down on DirecTV.
Either way, it looks like CBS is winning this one – one incremental way or another, to paraphrase Debbie Harry.
Or as Jean-Luc Picard says, “engage!”
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