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CBS Expands Digital Deals with ‘Good Wife’ Syndie Pact

Eye licenses older episodes of current series to SVOD for first time

The SVOD licensing bonanza that has erupted among Netflix, Amazon and Hulu during the past year came just in time for “The Good Wife.”

The legal drama has been a solid prestige player for the Eye during its four seasons to date — landing Emmy noms and a win for star Julianna Margulies — but not a spectacular ratings performer.

As a highly serialized show, it was unlikely to generate big bucks in traditional off-network syndication. But “Good Wife,” from CBS TV Studios, is tailor-made for the new breed of digital off-network buyers looking for the soapy, social media-friendly serialized skeins that invite binge viewing.

There was so much money on the table for “Good Wife” that CBS even broke with its own corporate precedent in cutting a streaming deal for older season episodes of a current series for the first time. CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves hinted that the Eye was considering such deals for CBS and Showtime skeins in his recent comments to Wall Streeters, who have been impressed with the windfall of digital licensing revenue as the majors crack open their libraries.

Scott Koondel, CBS’ chief content licensing officer, went all out in orchestrating the off-network rollout for “Good Wife,” which began Wednesday with the previous three seasons bowing on Amazon Prime. In fall 2013, as the show bows its fifth season, segs from the previous four will be available on Hulu Plus. Next January, past season episodes will bow on Hallmark Channel, and in fall 2014, it will add weekend plays on broadcast stations. All told, the show is expected to generate nearly $2 million per episode — much more than it would have garnered in a traditional cable sale alone.

“This is an off-network model for a unique serialized show in today’s television ecosystem,” Moonves said in announcing the deal.

“It uses creative windowing to serve the content needs of best-in-class partners while realizing the full syndication value for a high-quality series. In addition, the potential for catch-up viewing across multiple platforms can provide incremental value to future broadcasts on CBS.”

Among its peers, CBS had been the most restrictive in letting its series out into the digital arena. The thinking had been that overexposure of the program could take a toll on ratings for the premiere network airings (where the Eye still makes big money), or reduce the longterm value to cable and broadcast syndie buyers.

But evidence has been mounting that SVOD exposure for buzzworthy shows, including “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” has helped drive more viewers to the first-run airings.

Koondel said CBS was open to doing more deals for current series but that there are no discussions on any specific shows under way at present. “Good Wife” in many respects repped a unique opportunity to play the market, he said. Even for the weekend broadcast runs, which will include barter advertising time, “Good Wife” has cleared stations coveraging 85% of U.S. TV households, with the CBS-owned stations serving as its core affils in major markets.

“We spent a long time thinking about the best way to fully monetize this show,” Koondel said. “What we were able to accomplish with SVOD, cable and broadcast (deals) just shows what a huge appetite there was for it. Everybody really stepped up.”

“Good Wife” was created by Robert and Michelle King, who exec produce with Ridley Scott, David Zucker, Brooke Kennedy, Ted Humphrey, Keith Eisner and Leonard Dick.

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