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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 16, 2014

CBS Debuts $5.99 OTT Video Service

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

There are ten million broadband-only homes in the U.S., and media companies going after that segment of the market has become a thing this week. Just a day after premium cable doyenne HBO announced a plan to launch an over-the-top (OTT) streaming video offering, top broadcaster CBS has made an OTT move of its own.

The CBS All Access subscription service will go for $5.99 per month and offer a raft of live and on-demand content from the network. Most of it will include advertising, unlike HBO and Netflix, and it’s unclear whether viewers will find the CBS content-only proposition to be enough t justify the price tag (News - Alert)—particularly considering that, as a broadcast network, it’s technically available free-to-air with a cheap rabbit-ears antenna.

Even so, CBS is talking up the fact that subscribers will get access to “thousands of episodes” from current-season shows, plus fare from previous seasons and classic shows on demand. And in 14 top TV markets, the subscription will offer the ability to stream local CBS affiliate feeds live.

"CBS All Access is another key step in the company's long-standing strategy of monetizing our local and national content in the ways that viewers want it," said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO at CBS. "This new subscription service will deliver the most of CBS to our biggest fans while being additive to the overall ecosystem. Across the board, we continue to capitalize on technological advances that help consumers engage with our world-class programming, and we look forward to serving our viewers in this new and exciting way."

At launch, users can get full current seasons of 15 primetime shows, with episodes available the day after they air (there’s eight-day delay on mobile devices however), along with full past seasons of eight major series, including the Good Wife, Blue Bloods and Survivor. In addition, more than 5,000 episodes of CBS classics will be made available ad-free, including every episode of Star Trek, Cheers, MacGyver, Twin (News - Alert) Peaks and CSI: Miami.

The service will also offer access to exclusive additional content for special events, like the Grammys, the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. And, members will be able to watch 24/7 live feeds of Big Brother for no additional fee when the show returns next summer.

CBS has been experimenting with OTT services since 2013, most notably via its exclusive arrangement with Amazon to make summer series Under the Dome and Extant available three days after airing. Extant, which stars Oscar-winner Halle Berry as an astronaut, attracted record audience numbers in its opening 24 hours for Amazon UK this summer, with streams three times higher than any other opening episode of a TV show in the history of the streaming service.

Under the Dome meanwhile became Prime Instant Video’s most-watched series of 2013, while it was television’s No. 1 summer series in viewers, averaging nearly 14 million sets of eyeballs per week.

"Our focus is to develop the best cross-platform video experience possible,” said Jim Lanzone, president and CEO at CBS Interactive. “We want our audiences to be able to watch CBS's industry-leading content live and on demand whenever and wherever they want. CBS All Access delivers on that promise by giving our audience not only more CBS content, but also more ways to watch in a seamless user experience. We've integrated the service into our existing offerings and look forward to bringing it to all major digital platforms…in the coming months."

Customers can sign up at CBS.com and on mobile devices through the CBS App for iOS and Android (News - Alert)—support for other connected devices are in the pipeline.

Non-subscribers will continue to have access to the most recent current episodes of CBS programming on CBS.com, some CBS Audience (News - Alert) Network partner sites and through the CBS app.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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