from the wake-up-and-smell-the-Millennials dept
CBS CEO Les Moonves hasn’t always been a huge fan of change. The CEO likes to whine a lot about how the television landscape is shifting, whether that’s the fact that Netflix doesn’t have to share viewership numbers in the subscription streaming age, or the way Dish is giving users what they want with DVRs that automatically skip ads. Moonves is also a big fan of pouting and claiming CBS will pull all of its broadcast content off the air if the network doesn’t get what it wants (a man, in a very nice suit, threatening to take his ball and go home).
But even the change-averse CEO this week was forced to admit that the industry can no longer charge hundreds of dollars for hundreds of garbage channels and continue to call that value and innovation in the face of streaming competition. For all his myopia, Moonves at least has acknowledged that the shift to so-called “skinny” bundles is “inevitable”:
“You?ve heard the cliché over and over again, people are tired of paying for things they don?t want to watch. That?s finally going to change. Someone?s going to figure out how to do this and how to give people what they want to watch and it?s not for $100 a month, it will be for $35 or $39 dollars a month where you?ll really get the 12 to 15 or 18 channels that you care about. And not get the karate channel for 25 cents a month.”
Somebody did try to do this named Aereo, and it was sued into oblivion by CBS and others for its trouble. Other companies like Verizon are also trying to do this, but have been sued by broadcasters for trying. So to be clear, CBS believes “somebody” needs to shake up the stale cable bundle, but it should be CBS that does it.
To Moonves’ credit, CBS has done a lot more than other companies to try and embrace the streaming video revolution. CBS launched its own $6 a month “All Access” streaming service in 2014, and in 2015 followed HBO’s lead and offered a standalone Showtime streaming platform for $11 a month. CBS is also battling with Facebook, Verizon and others for new NFL streaming rights, and is planning to relaunch a new “Stark Trek” TV series that will be made exclusively available to CBS streaming customers. CBS hopes to bundle all of this into one giant package that bypasses the cable industry entirely.
That’s in notable contrast to broadcasters like ESPN, which has pretending that skinny bundle defectors are old, lame customers nobody wants anyway. Given ESPN benefits from having a channel many don’t care about forcibly included in core cable lineups, it has been notably more aggressive in defending TV’s status quo.
The problem CBS and other broadcasters will face is they continue to believe that streaming content exclusivity is the key to television’s future, and that consumers have an unlimited budget to subscribe to dozens of streaming services to get the content they’re looking for. The more fragmented content availability becomes, the more likely consumers are to avoid the hassle and cost of hunting and pecking through confusing and often shifting exclusivity windows — and revert to piracy.