CBS to Launch SVOD ‘All Access’ Service with Current and Classic Programs

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HBO isn’t the only big TV outlet  taking its TV series straight to the masses.

CBS Corp. is launching its own subscription service for on-demand consumption of its flagship network’s TV programs, as well as older series to which it owns the rights. “CBS All Access” will offer thousands of episodes from many of CBS’ current programs, classic series in its library as well as content from its local-TV stations, for $5.99 a month. With the service, anyone who wants to watch CBS shows will be able to do so whether they subscribe to a programming package from a video distributor or not.

The move represents a continuation of the big bet the company made when it declined to take an operating position in Hulu, the video-streaming site run by Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast. At a time when the habit of watching TV programs via digital transmission is in its relative infancy, it may not make sense to tie too strongly to a particular distribution methodology.

That theory was strengthened Wednesday when Time Warner’s HBO announced it would launch a new broadband-distribution service in 2015 that would allow “cord nevers,” or people who do not subscribe to TV programming via cable or satellite, to gain access to its programming.

“We feel confident there’s a meaningful audience for it,” said Jim Lanzone, president of CBS Interactive, the digital arm of CBS, in an interview.  He declined to offer a specific estimate for the number of people who might subscribe, though he noted it would likely be a “subset” of its overall user base. CBS Interactive attracts more than 280 million people to its sites each month.

HBO estimated its new standalone service would be welcomed most avidly by the approximately 10 million people who do not subscribe to a video service.

Executives at CBS believe “All Access” will lure die-hard fans willing to pay for extra content, while allowing CBS to continue to “window” its popular programs to various players, which can include local TV stations, cable outlets, international broadcasters and streaming-video players like Netflix and Amazon.

“All Access” will be available starting today at and on mobile devices through the CBS App for iOS and Android. Subscribers can watch  full current seasons of 15 primetime shows with episodes available the day after they air; live-stream local CBS stations in 14 of the largest U.S. markets; see full past seasons of eight current series, including “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods” and “Survivor”; watch more than 5,000 episodes of older programs in the company’s library, such as “Star Trek,” “Cheers,” “Twin Peaks” and “CSI: Miami.”

“This new subscription service will deliver the most of CBS to our biggest fans while being additive to the overall ecosystem,” said CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves, in a prepared statement. “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.”

Not every program identified with CBS will be available. CBS’ football broadcasts are  not part of the new service, executives said.

Fifteen CBS shows will have full current seasons available, and eight CBS primetime shows will also have all past seasons available in addition to current seasons. Some shows whose rights are controlled by other studios may only have the past seven episodes of the current season available, depending on what entity has digital and past-season rights.

CBS is in discussions with its affiliates about allowing their content to be distributed through the service.

The new venue shows CBS dabbling in as many opportunities as possible to draw revenue for its content. To be sure, CBS has made some library content as well as a narrow band of episodes of the past seasons of current series available via Hulu and its Hulu Plus subscription site, but it has long burnished the philosophy that the aftermarket fate of each program is something to be decided upon individually. Take, for example, its summer series “Under the Dome,” which plays out on Amazon after running each week on CBS, and is also sold to various parties overseas. Or “The Good Wife,” which runs on Amazon, Hulu Plus. Hallmark Channel and local stations, all under different circumstances.

CBS will be able to funnel some of the views of its “All Access” streams into Nielsen-sanctioned measures, said Marc DeBevoise, executive vice president, entertainment, sports and news, at CBS Interactive, in an interview. And it will also allow sponsors of “All Access” content to use a technology known as “dynamic ad insertion” that will allow them to swap out an old ad for a more current one when viewers watch current-season episodes days or weeks after their original launch.

Episodes from classic series will stream ad free, DeBevoise said, part of an enticement to spur people to subscribe.

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  1. CindyG says:

    Until I can watch it all via my ROKU 3…. I have opted for a good indoor antenna and whatever I can watch free via my Roku. The money they all charge is and always be too extravagant for the poor channel selections/bundles/etc. I would rather go back to the “outdated” OTA antennas! At least I can’t have my service interrupted for inability to pay when due and then be charged at least $6.50 or more to reconnect to each sector of Comcast bill ( the fee is charged for each service…phone, internet & cable ….separately!)

  2. w merline says:

    I cancelled after 5 days. It is now what is advertised. They don’t allow access to their programs without first shutting off your ad-block. they have no right to demand this if you are paying for the service. If they can’t figure out how to deliver ads within their programs, screw them. They don’t give access to live NFL games that I could just as easily see over the air instead. So no extra eyes on ads from me, if they think that’s more important. And then I was getting local channel (what little of it they would show), and now they say it is not available. Customer support is worthless and they could not care less if you get anything with this or not. The crooks just want your $6. With a moment’s thought they could have actually made this a useful service AND made money.

  3. Gatie Cat says:

    Content creators including self-publishing indies will increasingly go directly to the public while cable companies will become Internet access utilities. That said, this formula of charging $6/month AND suffering us with commercials is too arrogant to last.

  4. DC says:


    I cut the cord over 5 years ago, but $5.99 price point is too high for just CBS broadcast channel which I can get with an antenna for free or pay the local cable TWC $10.00 for all the local channel including CBS.

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    • Steve Simons says:

      In MA, Comcast charges $15.50 for the same package. Look what you have to look forward to when TWC merges with Comcast.

      I agree that it makes no sense to pay for something that you could get for free (plus football) with a decent antenna. Plus you may not even be able to watch CBS All-Access on your TV or without paying for a better broadband packages. It’s not even commercial-free. That means the value of the current programming is less than zero (no football).So the $5.99 monthly charge has to be for the convenience of watching past seasons of “some” current shows and for the pleasure of watching TV shows from the 50s and 60s. What a terrible idea. Les Moonves should get no bonus at the end of the year for coming up with this scheme.

  5. Steve Simons says:

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy a TV antenna? Adding in classic programming that is either available elsewhere on the Internet or on DVDs at my local library doesn’t add $5.99/mo.of value. “Cutting the cord” doesn’t mean you are not watching TV over the air. Maybe the CBS approach works in the middle of South Dakota but many of us in the Boston area can watch ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, the CW and Ion just fine with a low-cost indoor antenna.

  6. DB says:

    I would be willing to pay this, but not until it’s made available through my Roku.

  7. EK says:

    More chaos for the rating system and Neilsen. Already antiquated and virtually irrelevant, this methodology is doomed as more viewers skirt the rating barometers in “Neilsen homes.” RIP Neilsen and about time!

  8. John says:

    I thought Twin Peaks was on ABC?

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      It was broadcast by ABC but the studio that produced Twin Peaks is now owned by CBS. This is not unusual in broadcast television. ABC owns The Ghost Whisperer which aired on CBS over several seasons. There are many more examples of similar arrangements.

  9. Valerie Lange says:

    The only classic CBS programs I’d be interested in watching and paying for is Guiding Light and As The World Tuns, neither of which they own(ed)!

  10. Gerry Cueller says:

    CBS programming that you have to pay for? Moonves must be joking. These shows are unbearable even when free.

  11. orionsaint says:

    This is crazy! First HBO and now CBS. Networks are striking out on their own as live streaming services. That means if your favorite shows are on AMC or FX. You just subscribe to their streaming service and watch their channel that way, bypassing Comcast and DirecTV. Because if you think about it, how many channels do you actually watch on your TV? You’re usually focused on a few networks where your favorite shows are running.

  12. When you say no football, does that mean the games will be blacked out for people who could otherwise live stream their local CBS station as part of this service?

  13. neogrinch says:

    I’m in my mid thirties, and have had cable only for a short period, because it was included in my rent at the time. That was years ago. Many folks my age, and ESPECIALLY those younger no longer rely on cable… they simply won’t pay for it, because they know they’re getting ripped off. Older folks who don’t really understand how to work the internet and can’t really change from what they know are the only thing the cable companies are banking on. CBS is usually OTA for most folks near any city, but the vast library of past programming should make this a more interesting deal. I’d do it for 3.50 a month. not 6. I’m really interested in HBO’s move in this direction, and would like to see Viacom and other companies follow suit.

  14. David says:

    Good. Cable subscription packages are one of the scams of our lifetime. I cut the cord in the early 2000s.

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