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CBS Announced A New Paid Subscription Service: Here’s Why It Matters

CBS’s new “CBS All Access” is the first attempt by a broadcast television network to launch a paid, Netflix-style view-on-demand site.

CBS Announced A New Paid Subscription Service: Here’s Why It Matters
[Photo: Flickr user Seth Anderson]

There’s big news in the TV world: The old guard of broadcast and cable television has suddenly discovered subscription-based Internet streaming. CBS is now offering a paid web subscription service, which will launch in 2015 and offer current-season episodes the day after they air, along with a massive video library of past CBS shows, all for $5.99 a month. “CBS All Access” comes following HBO’s announcement of a digital version of HBO Go that does not require a cable subscription; taken together, the two announcements show a television industry that is going full-plunge into the world of on-demand streaming.

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In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS chairman Les Moonves said that “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.” The word monetizing is key here: HBO, CBS, Hulu, and a host of other players are continuing to figure out the best way to make money through digital streaming–just look at Aereo’s legal troubles–but due to the layers of lawyers and different organizations involved, it’s taking time to make things happen. In the end, though, CBS’s announcement signals something surprising: The cord-cutters (as long as they pay their cable provider for broadband access) are winning.

And the cord-cutters are winning because of a larger cultural change. Some time ago, Netflix and Hulu reached the tipping point where they (and similar global products like the BBC’s iPlayer) proved conclusively to entertainment industry executives that streaming media would comprise a very large slice of the media pie in coming years. One of the biggest fears of television and film executives is a replay of the wholesale industry transformation that hit the music industry during Napster’s golden years; obtaining legal rights and monetizing streaming platforms is their defense against a similar transformation.