CBS intends to give more attention to CBSN, the video-streaming hub devoted to news, in 2018, as a younger generation of news aficionados finds it easier to gain access to video on demand.
“We have seen a younger audience with an average age of 38 join our digital-news platform. They are hungry for a product that is more focused on knowledge than opinion, and delivers new information to them on topics they have not seen covered elsewhere,” says Christy Tanner, senior vice president and general manager of CBS News Digital, in an interview. “The lesson of the last two years in really that the idea that the news consumer is aging and sitting back in their La-Z-Boy, being targeted by certain kinds of ads, is simply not true.”
Streams of CBS increased 17% over 2016 year to date, according to CBS, as unique visitors to CBSNews.com increased 20%. Tanner attributes the surge to a younger swatch of news junkies looking for the stuff of the moment when news breaks. “Our audience has become loyal and is returning more and more frequently.”
Next year, CBS will work to make sure CBSN has a presence in its other digital properties, including the subscription-video-on-demand service “CBS All Access,”and a streaming CBS Sports platform expected to launch in coming months. “You will see increased collaboration” with other CBS verticals, she said, and better placement and promotion of exclusive stories.
When CBSN first launched in late 2014, it used a lot of segments that appeared first on “CBS This Morning” and “CBS Evening News.” Since that time, CBS has made sure CBSN viewers get more original content first. CBS News intends to continue launching “CBSN-only” programming like the political-news show “Red and Blue”, or a handful of limited-run series such as two that explored gender identity or immigrating to the United States via Panama’s Darien Gap (pictured, above). “We see live and breaking news obviously driving a lot of discovery and usage,” says Tanner. “But our original series, which we first launched two years ago, have continued to grow at a steady rate.”
Executives have seen usage streams grow in 2017 on Amazon, Apple TV and Roku, the service’s three biggest platforms. But they are encouraged by usage growth on some smaller and newer outlets like Pluto TV, Xumo and Fubo. While the numbers there are not up to the activity on the biggest three outlets, she said, “they have grown quickly, and it shows there is an audience for the news product that we are delivering.”
And there is new thought being given to content as well. “We are definitely planning to launch new programming franchises next year, and I am using the word franchise. We are thinking more about segments that are branded franchises, as opposed to shows in the traditional format,” said Tanner. “Our audience is expecting franchises to be available on their terms,” she added, suggesting that a daily five-minute segment on a particular topics might be of more value than a half-hour program. The segment, she said, “is something you can tune into at a certain time, but also make available via other outlets.”