“We have access to a lot of very valuable, very powerful promotional inventory,” he said. Unlike the before times, CBS and the broadcast networks won’t be the sole focus of these splashy sales pitches. Shouldn’t those be kept entirely in the Paramount Global universe? And that’s turning out of be very good news for CBS, which over the last decade looked out at all the changes brought about by the streaming revolution and consistently said, “Yeah, we’re good”:
➽ Instead of green-lighting fancy period dramas or Emmy-bait anthology series in a bid to compete with the premium fare on streaming, it opted to keep evolving its proven formula of procedural dramas and big-laugh comedies. The average age for CBS shows on Paramount+ is 18 years younger than the age on CBS linear. If it was doing well on both platforms, why not keep it on both — have your cake and eat it too? And yet, when you think about it, it’s actually not that much of a shock. Ahead of next week’s schmoozefest, Buffering caught up with CBS president and CEO George Cheeks to talk more about the success of the network’s often old-school approach, how it fits into Paramount’s broader streaming ambitions, and why he’s aleady thinking about expanding the universe of Ghosts. So a differentiated product strategy while the streaming business continues to evolve is just a better place to be. As a result, Disney’s stock was trading lower Thursday morning. Given the company has exactly zero ad sales infrastructure in place, I don’t know if it will be able to start battling for advance ad commitments at the same time the linear networks start negotiations. And I think these are the conversations you’re probably having on the Netflix side, too. And I think SEAL Team really proved that. Pundits can debate whether the strategy fully worked — All Access never really broke out — but the Eye’s decision to not devalue its core product by renting it to Hulu probably helped maintain the strength of the CBS brand and its linear ecosystem. I’ve said, “While you’re thinking about breaking next season, think about what a streaming version of a spinoff could look like.” I very much believe in this franchise strategy. But the knowledge Netflix will have inventory available much sooner than expected could theoretically prompt some companies to be more cautious in the coming weeks, knowing they’ll soon have access to a very attractive new platform.
CBS president and CEO George Cheeks. Speaking of Netflix, we’ve had this sudden vibe shift in streaming, where suddenly the coolest kid on the block is being talked about as some sort of outcast. It also validates our franchise strategy, which doesn’t necessarily mean existing franchises but actually picking up shows that we believe are franchise-able. BUFFERING: The press release announcing the network’s ratings victory for the season noted that shows from the network and CBS Studios account for more than half of the top 30 titles on Paramount+, and that they do well on Pluto TV as well. We have so many shows that have worked for so long, there’s not a lot of slots that are open. I think the user experience is tricky if they’re not available at all on Paramount+, but I think co-exclusivity or exclusivity — I think that should be a title-by-title strategic decision. CBS programs account for 13 of the 20 most-watched series on broadcast this season, and it’s the only network that still has shows that average more than 10 million viewers within a week of their initial telecast (NCIS and FBI). Because, again, when we approach these programming decisions, we now look at them holistically, and by holistically, I primarily mean CBS and Paramount+. We have that in-house.” Plus, in terms of marketing, Chopra said the scale of CBS’s weekly audience makes it easier for Paramount+ to build awareness of its own originals. I think you have to take a very title-by-title, bespoke approach. Turns out that was smart, too: Those geezers have abandoned broadcast at a much slower pace than millennial and Gen-Z viewers, leaving networks that chased those younger demos far more exposed to the perils of cord-cutting. Or is the success sort of an after-the-fact fringe benefit? So in scheduling meetings now, when talking about these shows, it’s of course, first and foremost, how we believe they’ll perform on CBS and where they should go. It’s early days, but I think it creates a universe. So will we see more shows that launch on CBS and then get converted into Paramount+ originals? ➽ Even as ABC, NBC, and Fox all rushed to give Hulu next-day reruns of their primetime shows back in the late aughts, CBS refused to play ball. But Wall Street, now very much in glass half-empty mode, ignored the D+ gains and seems to be focusing on comments by Disney execs suggesting growth could slow a bit in the second half of 2022. Our titles that have worked well on CBS, or performed well on Netflix or Paramount+, deserve universes of their own. Disney+ Numbers; Netflix’s Ad Plan
➽ It looks like the Great Streaming Apocalypse has skipped over Disney, at least for now. What’s the lesson you’re taking from its success? It kept those streaming rights in-house, launching CBS All Access years before former Disney CEO Bob Iger had his supposed breakthrough idea that a company should fully control its digital destiny. So I couldn’t feel better about this past season. You want the ability to sometimes make extra money by selling off some of the rights to other platforms. But it seems likely that at least at Paramount, the Eye will still get plenty of attention, particularly after another season in which it dominated the Nielsen ratings and launched a blockbuster comedy hit in the form of Thursday night smash Ghosts. We’re doing a version of that internationally. Part of it is real estate. How much does a show’s performance on Paramount+ play into how you judge its success? ➽ And you know how folks are always joking about how CBS’s shows skew so [gasp] old? Obviously CBS has not been immune to the ravages of audience erosion that have battered linear networks. Ghosts is obviously a great example of that. What’s more, because the linear CBS audience is still pretty hefty, Paramount is better positioned than any other media conglomerate to use its broadcast network as both a content pipeline and a promotional platform for its streaming service. Or was it just a matter of opening up prime-time real estate for CBS? We have incredible reach — more reach than any of the broadcast networks on linear. It’s typically packed with a lengthy list of boasts (“most-watched drama!,” “No. But because CBS’s entertainment programs generally reach so many more viewers than those on other networks, the Eye has a distinct advantage in making it all work. Vox Media, LLC Terms and Privacy Notice
By submitting your email, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Notice and to receive email correspondence from us. Do you find yourselves guiding CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl and his programming chief, Thom Sherman, to develop series with streaming in mind? Our filter cannot just be just solely focused on CBS because we are now a cross-platform brand and we are now an important driver for Paramount+ and Pluto TV — not just as a content engine, but obviously as a marketing support as well. During Netflix’s formative years as a streaming platform, network comedies such as Friends, The Office, and Parks and Recreation consistently tallied more viewing hours than many of the company’s own early slate of originals, which is why those shows are are now being used to build the subscriber base for NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WB Discovery’s HBO Max. We all know now that you can’t get away with not focusing on return on investment, and free cash flow, and all the things that Netflix is dealing with now. There are titles that you really do want to have exclusively in your ecosystem because I think that does drive value. It will end up airing on Paramount+ U.S. This story first ran in Buffering, Vulture’s newsletter about the streaming industry. But then we also have these shows that are translating to younger audiences when you look at it from a cross-platform perspective. But there’s also quite a robust discussion around whether we believe that this has potential to be a streaming driver as well. I believe in the power of having cable, premium cable, ad-supported subscription video on demand, FAST (free ad-supported TV), and a huge broadcast platform to help drive not only content but drive awareness and drive conversion. Email
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Terms of Service apply. The Mouse House Wednesday reported that signature streamer Disney+ added nearly 8 million subscribers during the first three months of the year, much better than the roughly 5 million analysts had predicted. In the reality space, we’re looking at the same thing. I don’t know why a concept like that could not lend itself to being franchised because there’s a whole world that’s been created through this show. NOW PLAYING: BUFFERING
Sign up for Vulture’s insider newsletter on the streaming industry from editor Joe Adalian. I think it’s highly possible. ➽ The broadcast networks will begin selling fall advertising inventory almost immediately after wrapping up next week’s upfront presentations. I believe that what Paramount Media Networks chief Chris McCarthy has done with the Taylor Sheridan universe is the right approach for us. Ghosts is one of those titles. And we trusted the Ghosts team, and they really delivered. This interview has been edited and condensed. What I would say is I believe in our differentiated strategy. SEAL Team is a perfect example of a show that was a solid performer on CBS that really over-indexed on Paramount+. ➽ When other networks decided to cut costs by adding more and more reality and game shows to their lineups, CBS found a way to keep the percentage of its schedule devoted to scripted series relatively high. Another obvious conversation would be spinoff extensions of proven franchises on CBS then having a streaming original version on Paramount+. And the strategy keeps getting validated because a lot of these shows that we’re launching, as well as our returning shows, are doing very well on both platforms. What’s your take on what’s been happening to them and what it means for the larger conversation about streaming? Paramount chief financial officer Naveen Chopra talked about this during the company’s most recent earnings call, arguing that the company’s diverse linear ecosystem — led by CBS — gives it “the ability to fundamentally change the economics of streaming” on multiple fronts.
We take a more holistic view on what success means in a world where people are consuming our content in different ways. A lot of these four-quadrant procedural shows can work extremely well from an engagement standpoint in terms of their library but also from an acquisition standpoint as originals. But it was a top-three original show on Paramount+ during its original run and drove engagement on the library by 300 percent. We announced NCIS: Sydney, which is going to be a local version of NCIS produced for Paramount+ in Australia and for linear-platform Network 10. But I also wanted to test the traditional notion of what a streaming original looks like. I don’t think it necessarily encourages tons of more risk-taking, but I think it just validates the idea of when you really believe in something, even if it doesn’t fit into a bucket of what you thought you were going to pick up, trust your creative instincts. 1 new show!”) designed to impress upon the reader just how popular the Eye network remains with audiences, even as the overall universe of people watching linear networks continues to contract. But I really have always believed in the differentiated strategy and the power of broadcast to help drive it forward. NBC and ABC are obviously attempting a similar play with their efforts to essentially make those networks tiny little divisions of Peacock and Hulu, respectively, while Fox is going big on synergy with Tubi. I’m constantly in conversations with our key creators and showrunners on some of our bigger franchises. I recognize that all the stocks are getting hit right now. So I could easily see that conversation happening again. And that opens up the possibility of doing originals made for streaming. This year’s dispatch from CBS HQ was no exception, but below the annual avalanche of superlatives, it also included one new bit of braggadocio: CBS is responsible for 17 of the top 30 titles on sibling streamer Paramount+. But I remember in my NBC days, you could have SVU on ten different platforms, and it would overperform on all of them. So we converted it into a Paramount+ original, using CBS to anchor it with a four-episode premiere before it became a Paramount+ original. The sweet spot is finding those shows that appeal to that core CBS audience, which we know is older, but then finds that unduplicated, younger audience on streaming. Photo: Shedrick Pelt/Getty Images
GEORGE CHEEKS: There’s real intentionality around sitting down with the creative team and saying that this is what we’re looking for, this is our filter now. You just did a deal to make Paramount+ the exclusive streaming home for past episodes of Ghosts, but a lot of your big shows like NCIS stream on Netflix as well as Paramount+. Oh, so you think there could be spinoffs of Ghosts? I don’t need to talk about any of our competitors. Something like The Thing About Pam didn’t set the world on fire in the linear ratings for NBC, but they made a big deal about its audience on Hulu and Peacock. I’m really focused now on “We’ve got a big hit, let’s protect it and shore it up for season two.” But I think that’s highly possible. After Netflix’s decline during the quarter, and its projection of steeper losses to come, it was a nice bit of news for the streaming industry. On the content side, the exec noted that “a lot of pure-play streamers” — read: Netflix — “have to spend billions of dollars a year renting library content. Does it encourage more risk-taking at the network? And some of the biggest streaming success stories in recent years have been series that were either aired on (or were originally developed for) broadcast and basic cable platforms, including You (Lifetime), Emily in Paris (Paramount Network), Lucifer (Fox), and Manifest (NBC.)
The message audiences are sending to streamers is pretty clear: We may not like the endless ads, random reruns, and confusing scheduling of network TV, but actually, we kind of like the kinds of shows it makes. Its press release proclaiming victory for the 2011–12 TV season noted it dominated the year with an average audience of 11.7 million viewers; a decade later, the Eye won the 2021–22 season by averaging a mere 6.4 million viewers. Even though it does well with younger demos on CBS proper, it’s also finding another big batch of viewers on P+, where it’s the platform’s most-watched comedy. How actively are you committed to finding more of these franchise spinoffs of CBS shows for streaming? Do you view things similarly? Nielsen’s weekly lists of top SVOD shows regularly include multiple network TV staples, both current (NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy) and past (Seinfeld, Criminal Minds). Not just extensions but actual outright spinoffs that can live exclusively on streaming, particularly for those reality shows that have really strong, passionate fan bases. Given the emphasis all streamers, including Paramount+, put on their own ever-lengthening rosters of pricey originals, it might seem surprising that more than half of the most popular programs on Paramount Global’s signature streamer come from the decidedly unsexy world of network TV. In terms of the promotional support that CBS gave Paramount+ in 2021, it was worth $4 billion — that’s billion with a b — impressions. Related
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Tags: Expect to hear a variation of Chopra’s message next week when CBS and other parts of the Paramount Global empire strut their stuff during upfronts, which after two years of virtual presentations will be returning in person around New York. Head to vulture.com/buffering and subscribe today! But it looks like they’re going to have some major unexpected competition: Netflix, which only a few weeks ago said it might launch an ad-supported option in a year or two, is now rushing to do so by this fall. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photo by Bertrand Calmeau/CBS
Every spring for the past 14 years, CBS has been able to put out a press release touting its status as America’s most-watched network during the official nine-month TV season. I recognize that it’s a challenging time. I don’t think anyone in our world could ever have predicted the level of success we hit. But other networks have lost an even bigger percentage of their viewership, and as the aforementioned Paramount+ stats indicate, many of the lost linear eyeballs are now being replaced by a rapidly growing streaming audience. as well.