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CBS Summer of SVOD: Inside Amazon Deal for ‘Under the Dome,’ ‘Extant’

Amazon is paying nearly $900K per episode for streaming rights to each of the Eye's serialized dramas, according to a source

CBS is gearing up for another summer run with Amazon.com to deliver catch-up viewing on episodes of “Under the Dome” season 2 and Halle Berry starrer “Extant,” starting with each show’s premiere.

Under the novel pact between the Eye and Amazon, first struck for season one of “Dome” last summer, the e-commerce company has rights to stream episodes of both shows on Prime Instant Video four days after they air on TV.

But according to CBS Entertainment chairman Nina Tassler, the licensing model for now is specific to the summertime — and works because both “Under the Dome,” based on the bestselling Stephen King novel, and sci-fi thriller “Extant” are serialized dramas.

“During the summer … people aren’t expecting to see scripted shows,” she said. “There were unique challenges in broadcasting serialized content during the summer, and Amazon’s model was perfectly tailored to a serialized show.”

Currently, Tassler doesn’t expect CBS to license shows from the Eye’s regular-season lineup to subscription VOD players in the same four-days-after-air model. “We don’t need to do that” with fall premieres, she said. “That doesn’t work for us right now.” During the summer, when people are on vacation, an SVOD service presents an ideal way to stay current with a buzzed-about show.

SEE ALSO: CBS Renews Amazon Deal for ‘Under the Dome’ Season 2

CBS touted the original Amazon deal for “Under the Dome,” along with the sale of international rights, as guaranteeing the series was profitable before it even aired. CEO Leslie Moonves, at a conference last December, indicated Amazon paid $700,000 per ep of “Dome.”

This summer, Amazon is paying close to $900,000 per episode for each of the two series, according to a source familiar with the pact. CBS and Amazon declined to comment on financial terms of the deal.

To Brad Beale, Amazon’s director of digital video content acquisition, the arrangement with CBS for the two shows is clearly a win with consumers. He noted that “Dome” season one was the most-streamed show on Prime Instant Video last summer, and was the top-rated series for summer 2013.

“There’s definitely a positive customer reaction in being able to get a show that’s broadcast on network television on Monday and getting it on-demand on Prime Instant Video on Friday,” he said.

CBS premieres season 2 of “Under the Dome” on June 30 and newcomer “Extant” debuts the July 9. Both are co-productions of CBS Television Studios and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television, which also helped grease the wheels to extend the CBS-Amazon partnership to the two 2014 shows.

The four-day delay before new episodes hit Amazon is to ensure CBS captures live+3 Nielsen ratings — the C3 metric that counts viewers across live broadcast, VOD and DVR viewing within three days of the original airing. The Eye is also being careful not to dilute the value of VOD rights it sells to pay TV providers like Comcast.

Last year, CBS approached several SVOD distributors about in-season licensing for “Dome,” a property with “big auspices” and “a lot of marquee value,” Tassler said. Amazon “sparked to it right away. … Right from the beginning they were a terrific partner.” She noted that Amazon sells the book — and the company had clear data that it was a great performer.

Beale said that when Amazon bought the four-day-after-air SVOD rights to “Under the Dome,” “all we had was a script.” It was a gamble, he acknowledged, but “we were aware that there was a built-in fan base because the book sales were popular.”

Since the Amazon-CBS “Dome” experiment, several other online distributors and even cable networks have approached CBS about similar short-term syndication deals.

Tassler said CBS is open to any conversation, but she emphasized that each of the broadcaster’s shows has its own unique and particular needs: “If the model works for us, we’ll continue to do this.”

For Amazon’s part, Beale said the company is “absolutely talking to all kinds of partners about different models.” He added: “There’s no doubt that the industry is changing rapidly.”

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