×

Leslie Moonves Divulges Details on Showtime’s New Online Streaming Service

CBS Corp. is taking a big step into the future of TV distribution next month with the launch of Showtime as a broadband-only subscription offering. CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves spoke with Variety on Wednesday about the long gestation process, plans for a marketing blitz, and his hope that cable operators will embrace the potential of OTT to complement their broadband services.

What was the toughest calculation you made in getting to today’s formal announcement? You’re launching initially with Apple, but you will add others soon.

Leslie Moonves: We’ve been working on this obviously for a few years. It’s been a constant source of comment in our company. Showtime is in almost 24 million homes. So how do we expand? How do we get out there to more people? Obviously a lot of this is targeted to the 10 million broadband-only homes out there. And we think we can target to people who don’t get Showtime through their basic cable package. By the time someone signs up for cable and they check off on the HBO package, they’ve already spent 120 bucks before they get to Showtime.

What has the reception been among traditional MVPDs?

We want to offer (consumers) a different proposition. Obviously we were affected by HBO’s announcement (of HBO Now). They’ve done very well. Clearly, it’s an idea that is accepted. But by no means are we wanting to go around our existing partners. We want them to participate with us and have a different way of getting Showtime to consumers. There’s another 90 million homes out there that we would like to get to.

So have you had conversations with the biggest cable operators about launching this service?

I haven’t, but (Showtime chairman) Matt Blank and others have. We’ve contacted everybody to tell them what our intentions were. I do believe they’ll all be on board with this. Everybody’s business is changing so darn rapidly. Everybody’s trying to get their hands around what does all of this mean for our business. Our goal at CBS, whether as a premium cable network or a broadcast network, is to make our programming available to as many people as possible. … I did a talk with graduate students at USC recently and they are really broadband only, and they are dying to get Showtime. They know about “Homeland,” “Ray Donovan” and “Shameless” and they are anxious to get it.

You launched the CBS All Access OTT service last October. What have you learned from the experience so far?

We’re extremely pleased with how it’s gone. In the OTT world, you have to get a lot of people to try it out. Not all of them stay. Big events drive the sign-up initially. What we’ve found that is interesting is that the majority of people are there for catch-up viewing, not the live (streaming) feature. That’s great and it’s an important part of All Access, but a majority of people want to watch all of the episodes from last season of “The Good Wife” — things like that.

We thought the balance would be somewhat different. I thought live would be a bigger piece of (usage). Clearly it’s impossible to ignore the success of Netflix and of Hulu. The online world is becoming a more and more important part of entertainment. By no means do I expect people to leave broadcasting in droves or the traditional way of getting Showtime. This is a great new alternative.

How did you come to the $10.99 pricetag for Showtime? That’s in line with the price charged by most MVPDs, right? You’re a buck more than Netflix but a few dollars less than HBO Now.

We had a lot of conversations about pricing and where we are in relationship to the other players. We did a lot of research about what would be effective in comparison with all the others out there.

Will you do a big marketing push beyond your own air?

There will be an off-air and an on-air component. The advantage Showtime has that the others don’t is that they also belong to a broadcast network. There will be great opportunity for us to promote this service. Once again, we’re in business with Apple and other partners that have major plans to market us.

Will you specify any other partners?

We’re going to have some announcements in the very near future about some of the other players. There are numerous conversations going on right now.

A year from now, what level of subscribers would you consider to be a successful launch for this service?

We’re not going to make predictions or projections — as HBO has wisely done. The good news is the cost basis is rather low. We won’t need millions and millions of initial subscribers to make it successful. But we’re not going to project just yet.

More Biz

  • Santos Dumont

    Mipcom: International TV Output Picture Changing for U.S. Majors

    The global import-export strategies of the U.S. majors are in flux as the world’s major content companies gather this week in Cannes for the annual Mipcom market and conference. Disney, WarnerMedia and the other handful of media conglomerates that control the vast majority of the U.S. market are in the midst of a radical transition [...]

  • Jane Fonda Arrested

    Jane Fonda Arrested in D.C. During Climate Change Protest

    Jane Fonda was arrested on Friday in Washington, D.C. during a climate change protest, Variety has confirmed. “Today, the United States Capitol Police arrested 16 individuals for unlawfully demonstrating on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol,” Capitol Police communications director Eva Malecki said in a statement to Variety. She added that all were charged with crowding, [...]

  • Firefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in

    Saddleridge Fire Forces Evacuations, TV Production Shutdowns

    A wind-whipped wildfire has spread across parts of the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles and forced evacuations, threatened thousands of homes and closed parts of five major freeways. The Saddleridge fire has prompted mandatory evacuations affecting about 100,000 people between Porter Ranch, Granada Hills and Sylmar. Mandatory evacuations have been called for about [...]

  • amazon-studios

    Amazon Studios Pacts With Howard University for Entertainment Education Program

    Howard University and Amazon Studios have teamed to launch Howard Entertainment, a two-semester program based in Los Angeles that offers Howard students the ability to take courses, network with Amazon industry partners and gain work experience in the entertainment industry. The inaugural program will begin January. The curriculum and immersive experiences will start with academic [...]

  • Remembering Prince

    Prince Estate Slams Trump Campaign for Playing ‘Purple Rain’ at Minneapolis Rally

    The Prince Estate strongly criticized the Trump campaign for playing “Purple Rain” at a Minneapolis rally in which the president made multiple aggressive and juvenile comments about Democratic leaders, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce and Jay-Z. In a statement posted on social media, the Estate wrote, “President Trump played Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ tonight at a campaign event [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Wins Dismissal of Retaliation Claim in Harassment Suit

    A New York judge on Thursday dismissed a claim that Charlie Rose retaliated against three female employees who complained of sexual harassment. Judge Doris Ling-Cohan found that while Rose had allegedly disparaged the women — calling one a “f—ing idiot” and another a “f—ing kindergartner” — his comments did not amount to retaliation under the [...]

  • James Murdoch

    James Murdoch's Lupa Systems Takes Minority Stake in Vice (Report)

    James Murdoch has purchased a minority stake in Vice Media, the once-upstart brand that is trying to reconfigure itself as many prominent digital-media brand grapple with a wave of consolidation, according to a new report. The Financial Times reported that Murdoch’s investment vehicle, Lupa Systems, has secured a small ownership stake in Vice. A spokeswoman [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content