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Leslie Moonves Talks Apple TV, Ad-Free Version of CBS All Access

CBS Corp. chief Leslie Moonves floated the possibility of an advertising free version of CBS All Access and poured cold water on Apple TV’s plans to launch a cable like channel package during his appearance Tuesday at the Business Insider conference in New York.

Referring to Apple’s hotly anticipated, but long-delayed, plans to offer a tier of channels subscribers could stream for a monthly fee, Moonves said, “They’ve had conversations on it, and I think they pressed the hold button.” His comments were the most definitive indication in quite some time that Apple’s bid to compete with pay-TV companies has stalled; the Cupertino, Calif.-company has yet to comment on the venture beyond indications from CEO Tim Cook that the TV business is “broken.”

Meanwhile, discussing the status of CBS All Access, the company’s stand-alone streaming service, Moonves said each subscriber is worth about $4 a month to the Eye in terms of advertising revenue. At present CBS All Access charges a $6 monthly fee for live streaming of the network and VOD access to current and library series with advertising included. The company is weighing options for offering a $10 monthly version that would be ad-free, similar to the tiered offering from Hulu.

“We’re thinking about it,” he said. “There could very well be a $9.99 product out there.”

Moonves appeared with CBS Interactive president Jim Lanzone. Moderator Brian Stelter of CNN did his best to get Moonves to divulge subscriber numbers for CBS All Access, which launched in October 2014. Moonves wouldn’t budge. “When Netflix tells us how many people are watching ‘House of Cards,’ then we’ll consider it,” he joked.

Lanzone noted that “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” ranks as CBS All Access’ most-streamed new series. “Colbert was huge right out of the gate,” he said.

Moonves and Lanzone also talked up the free CBSN streaming service that is CBS News’ advertising-supported digital hub. The service is not profitable, the pair admitted, but it’s not a capital intensive property either given that CBS News already produces so much content for the network.

Moreover, Moonves said CBSN is reaching an entirely new audience. The average age of the CBSN viewer is 40, compared to 70 for cable news overall and 61 for broadcast TV news overall.

Lanzone said a milestone moment for CBSN in terms of viewership came during the Nov. 13-15 period when the Paris terror attacks heightened viewership and CBS hosted its Nov. 14 Democratic presidential debate. The circulation on the site during that weekend reached 6 million users, he said.


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