Much has changed at CBS Corp. in recent months, but one thing will not: its focus on producing video content.
Speaking at an investor conference Tuesday, CBS Corp. Chief Creative Officer David Nevins – who was named to the role in October after running Showtime for several years – articulated a strategy that is much like that the company followed before its former CEO, Leslie Moonves, was ousted in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment. Moonves has denied many of the claims.
Nevins has been charged with overseeing content development not only for the company’s flagship broadcast network, CBS and Showtime, but also CBS All Access, the subscription video-on-demand outlet. He said he wanted each venue to have its own identity. “My job is not to sort of homogenize,” he said to attendees of UBS annual conference for media investors.
Some changes are on the way. Nevins indicated CBS would replace”The Big Bang Theory” with its spin-off, “Young Sheldon.” And he indicated the company would place new emphasis on All Access. “The 2019 offering will be way more robust than 2018,” Nevin said, vowing that “a ton more content” would be produced.
Nevins said CBS All Access and Showtime was starting to see something he called the “resubscriber” effect – those customers that come in and out of a service for certain shows now that it is an easier process than in the old days with a cable subscription. Nevins said that has made the company more sophisticated in their marketing approach to new and returning subscribers.
Boxing is a big focus for Showtime now that HBO is leaving the ring of pricey pay-per-view matches. “I think there’s great opportunity for us to own the high end of boxing,” he said. Now that CBS is able to sell PPV events directly to consumers through its streaming apps “we’ve somewhat changed the economics of the (PPV) business. We’re selling directly through our apps and keeping the distributors’ share.”
Nevins was pressed about the health of the linear schedules of CBS and Showtime and how the latter will fare after “Homeland” end its run next year. Nevins said there is a natural ebb and flow to the programming business. “Shows get older and they get more expensive. They go away and you reset your cost basis. A healthy network knows how to prepare for the go-away. The longtime Showtime chief predicted that Showtime comedy “SMILF” and drama “The Chi” are ready for growth in their sophomore seasons. Wall Street drama “Billions” is “at its peak,” he said, teasing that the upcoming fourth season “is all about vengeance.”
As for the ability of CBS to compete with the hugely deep pockets of rivals like Netflix, Nevins said the selling point to creatives is the potential to see real money over a long period in success through backend participation. That’s a big different from the Netflix model of paying an rich upfront license fee but limiting the ability of a producer to later sell the series in syndication or around the world.
“You can play for the front end or you can play for the backend,” Nevins said. “We have a history of monetization. The creative community is getting very hip to that.”