CBS is providing a model for what OTT delivery can be and somehow the rest of the network tv world is missing the boat. This week CBS made a few momentous announcements. One is that CBS All Access is going to become available outside of the US. NBC, ABC and Fox do not have that sort of reach at the moment nor have they made any announcements indicating a plan for it. Hulu, which of course is the easiest way to stream content from those networks without having an authenticated app has grown considerably over the past year domestically but the service is not available to over seas viewers. It can’t be overstated that a major part of Netflix’s growth has been due to its international reach. What will be interesting is to see if CBS expands its offerings to cover programming that is popular in the regions it expands to or will partner with terrestrial broadcasters overseas to offer live streaming in the same way it does in the US.
Even without international expansion, the network has seen strong results so far. CBS owned Showtime has proven successful as an over the top product as well. CBS says that there are over 4 million subscribers to Showtime and CBS All Access combined, while not on the scale of Netflix and its 128 million plus users, it is solid growth for a relatively new service.
That is not the only thing CBS is rolling out though. It will be launching an OTT sports channel in the same vein as CBSN. Why is that important? Because CBSN is a free 24-hour service. The network is available via its website, apps on a number of platforms as well as through the CBS All Access app. While the news is live, it does not show the actual CBS Nightly News program. Though it should be noted that it did air a 2016 presidential debate live. The question on the minds of cord cutters, of course, is whether CBS will put live sports on the internet or will it be a free 24-hour sports news network. There are now numerous examples of online operations streaming sports including Facebook’s MLB streaming, Amazon, and the NFL have a pact for Thursday Night Football and Twitter has deals to stream MLB, PGA and WNBA games. The thing that makes CBS different on this landscape is obvious though. It is a company that has direct access to TV infrastructure, years of experience in sports broadcasting and a wealth of talent that can make the execution a smooth one. CBS also needs this to work more than any other operation in the market because unlike Twitter or Facebook CBS is not a social media operation dabbling in sports. It is a TV network diving into streaming. This will be a fascinating story to cover as it develops.