All this comes with the news of a new deal CBS has made to sell “CSI” to a U.S.-subscription-based video-on-demand service (SVOD.).
The “CSI” franchise -- a big piece of CBS’ current success -- has brought in billions through global TV licensing deals around the world, including many advertising-supported TV networks and stations.
Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger continues to make the case for CBS and others to take a different approach with these deals: "We believe networks need to wean themselves off of SVOD (subscription video on demand) licensing, which we believe is the primary driver of the demise of ad-supported video consumption," he noted.
CBS positions this deal in a different way: not only about getting multimillion dollars in license fees, but as a way to market the program. CBS believes those watchers of “CSI” on SVOD platforms will be moved to watch newer episodes on CBS, episodes that are supported by advertising sales.
Decades ago, when big media companies made deals to rerun network shows -- first on TV stations through U.S. syndication, and more recently with the addition of cable TV networks, the issue was raised that exposure to rerun content would siphon away viewers from the original. Then, as now, proponents countered with the belief older TV program content would push viewers to watch more networks shows -- fresh, original fare.
Detractors might now say all this didn’t work -- that broadcast TV ratings have witnessed a steady decline, while cable networks, with their off-net comedies and dramas, contributed to that decline. Others might say that had networks not made those program deals, their declines would have occurred faster.
Now a bigger factor comes in light of advertising-supported programming versus content that comes free of advertising -- on Netflix, for example.
CBS still pulls in a hefty piece of its overall revenues from advertising sales, around 50% -- though that share has been failing rapidly as the company expands its revenue base.
Though Viacom still dismisses the activity, its sales to Netflix of Nickelodeon content may have affected ratings on its advertising-supported traditional TV network.
Future questions for CBS and other traditional TV network producers: 1) Are TV viewers moving more to advertising-free TV platforms, and 2) can revenues from TV license deals with such platforms grow and eventually replace deals with advertising-based networks?
And while you’re mulling that, think about this: When growing sales of off-network shows were in their heyday, back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there was no DVR technology -- no way for advertising avoidance.