CBS Offers Ad-Backed VOD

NEW YORK After several years of experimentation, CBS now believes ad-supported video on demand distributed free to viewers may be the best VOD business model.

With that strategy in mind, the network and cable operator Comcast have renewed their VOD agreement—but with different terms from the initial fee-based deal the pair struck last year.

Under the new contract, CBS will make eight of its prime-time series available through Comcast’s On Demand VOD service. The shows, which will be offered free of charge but with ads sold by CBS, are CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, Survivor, NCIS, Numb3rs, Jericho and Big Brother. The shows will be offered on all Comcast systems, which collectively serve more than 23 million subscribers nationwide.

The previous agreement offered CBS programming for 99 cents per episode only in markets served by stations CBS owned and operated.

Episodes of the shows will now be available for on-demand viewing on the day after their network premieres and will remain available for four weeks.

The agreement takes effect today, and the season premiere of Survivor will become the first VOD offering under the new deal.

“Early results show that viewers are responding to programming being made available on emerging platforms for free, supported by advertising,” said Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS, in a statement.

Two years ago, CBS made its coverage of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s basketball tournament available via online pay per view. “It did okay,” a CBS representative said. However, the network made significantly more revenue this year streaming the tournament online for free, supported by ads. (The revenue was approximately $4-5 million, the rep confirmed.)

Comcast offers more than 7,500 programs through its VOD library, 95 percent on a free ad-supported basis.