CBS isn't worried about the future of broadcast television because it believes in the promise of video-on-demand. That's the always lurking-in-the-background technology that won't allow viewers to fast-forward through possibly anything -- even commercials.
This approach isn't new. A couple of years ago, ABC had considered the possibility of working with cable operators to disable the fast-forwarding function on DVRs. That disabling function has always been available. The issue was whether to install it -- for fear of backlash from viewers.
Digital video consumers are already fully aware of what they get when they go to the likes of Hulu and other sites. You get commercials -- albeit, shorter messaging, fewer overall commercials -- prepping viewers for the possible moment in TV time, when TV viewing might revert to watching (or old-school avoiding) TV commercials.
No doubt some entertainment technologists are already looking beyond VOD, as a way to get around not being able to fast-forward.
CBS' contention for the VOD comes for the viewer's bottom line: Save $10 bucks a month to get rid of your DVR. (Hmmm. Make it $50 and you have a deal).
What might cable operators say? I don't believe it will necessarily be a problem because they are pushing other entertainment/media technologies on consumers -- wireless, internet, and other forms of video -- some with better profit margins. Cable operators also have a strong interest in VOD services -- especially ones that include movies. Maybe they might find a way to be a different sort of financial partner with the networks.
Still, $10 a month is still a cheap alternative to have the ability to save 14 minutes per TV hour of my entertainment life. That's what networks should be working on. Right now, TV networks' concern is finding a way to work with restless TV marketers in the future. In the past -- and currently present -- it comes with the word "efficiency" (of their media buys).
TV networks talk of eliminating waste for their TV business customers; they should try to do the same for their TV-watching customers.