Commentary

Post-Moonves, What's Next For CBS?

The big question -- maybe unnoticed -- has always been lurking for CBS: What was its second act? 

Les Moonves, departing CEO, CBS, may have been right to dismiss the idea of re-merging with Viacom. But what is the right future for the network? Just more broadcast-TV, with perhaps less dependence on advertising revenues and more on subscription fees?

Viacom could still be a factor. Two years from now, National Amusements, CBS' and Viacom’s majority owner, will be allowed another push for a recombination of the companies.

Rich Greenfield, media analyst of BTIG Research, in speaking with Bloomberg, believes this. What about digital media/tech companies -- Facebook, Google, Amazon or perhaps a telecommunications company? He says they aren’t really interested in CBS. They are replacing companies like CBS, not buying them.

No doubt CBS should be given a lot of credit. It maintained itself as a mostly broadcast TV-based media company in an age of growing new TV and media companies.

Because of its large overall prime-time viewership and reach, it was able to sustain these results -- which not only included higher advertising revenue but right-to-the bottom-line revenue coming from ever-higher retrans revenues.

Focus now on the next big revenue generator for CBS. That is something new acting CEO Joe Iianneio, and the CBS board, will address.

Maybe that comes with big-ticket programming partnerships. Think about how CBS shares the acquisition and production costs of the month-long NCAA March Madness event with Turner.

Are there closer ties CBS needs to consider, say with Netflix or perhaps Hulu, now 60% owned with Walt Disney, 30% for Comcast, and 10% with Time Warner?

CBS takes pride in the position that it produces big-scale “premium” TV series that everyone wants in the world wants to see.

But evolving that content strategy -- especially considering consumption by younger, not necessarily millennial TV viewers -- might be key. (CBS does get a younger average audience -- as do many networks -- when its programs appears on digital video platforms.)

Add in more engagement and ROI metrics and marketers will see something they get from major digital media players.

Even without the sudden departure of Moonves after 25 years at the company, the next big hurdle for CBS was always just around the corner.

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