The Dinosaur Is No Longer a Dinosaur: Reasons to Be Bullish About the Broadcast Network TV Business

Jul 18, 2014  •  Post A Comment

By Chuck Ross

In a short but smart speech delivered yesterday, July 17, 2014, at the Television Critics Association’s summer gathering at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler explained why the broadcast network TV business, for CBS especially, is a good place to be in 2014.

Courtesy of CBS, here’s that speech:

Well, here we are again.  It's another press tour.  Time moves fast, and our business moves even faster.

Since the last time I was up here in January, we've got “Thursday Night Football.”  David Letterman said he's retiring.  Stephen Colbert is coming soon.  And we have already announced our next big summer show for 2015, "Zoo."  CBS is also coming off another season as America's most watched network, the 11th time in 12 years. 

We continue to be a highly profitable network, and we're rolling out a diverse slate of exciting new shows to build on that success.  I want to take a moment to applaud all of our actors and producers for delivering us a strong Emmy nomination count last week.  I admit it; I'm still really pissed about "The Good Wife."

But overall the Emmy nominations were very good at CBS.  We were second to HBO and first among the broadcast networks.  Without question, these are exciting times.  They're transitional times.  We've been saying for years the business is evolving, and we are embracing those changes in so many new and very positive ways.

And our dialogue is changing too.  We now have VOD, L3, C3, L7, AVOD, SVOD.  It's a lot of letters.  But it all adds up to big numbers in terms of total viewers and revenue.  And as a viewer and as a programmer, I really love this era of television. 

We're a part of the business where creative deal making and new technologies are supporting just more original programming and more platforms on which to watch them.  The winners here are content creators, viewers, and the company bottom line.  More quality shows are being produced.  There is more choice for the audience.  And as The New York Times just pointed out, new services, such as Netflix and Amazon, have expanded our syndication market with their high demand for programming. 

There are many examples that illustrate how all parts of this new ecosystem are working together to support hit shows.  These platforms aren't replacing each other.  They're complementing one another and enhancing the value of the content as it moves from window to window.

I think "Elementary" is one of the best dramas on television, and Jonny Lee Miller's portrayal as Sherlock Holmes is Emmy-worthy.  Many people look at "Elementary" and only see a Live+Same Day audience of 9 million viewers on CBS.  We look at "Elementary" and see a big audience that grows to nearly 14 million when you add in 7-day viewing on DVR, VOD and online viewing, plus a healthy demo boost too.  The audience across all these platforms has built an important program asset for our company that's led to a huge syndication deal with Hulu and WGN. 

We also look at our prime-time schedule on a year-round basis.  The term "midseason" has been retired, and we program throughout the summer. 

Event series like "Under the Dome" and "Extant" are both supported by licensing deals with Amazon and international revenue that makes these shows profitable from the first episode.  "Dome" was the No. 1 show last summer, a big hit internationally, and the No. 1 show on Amazon too.  Last week the premiere of "Extant" was the most-watched show on television and opened to record streaming levels for Amazon in the U.K.  It's a model that's a great business for CBS and delivers more original programming for the audience. 

The growing truth is that picking winners today isn't as simple as looking at the overnight ratings.  And today's television marketplace is rewarding programs that build big total audiences.  Look no further than "NCIS."  It's the most-watched drama on television.  It has nearly 19 million Facebook fans and was recently named the most-watched show in the world.  Our competitors may call it old-skewing.  We call it a billion dollar franchise.

Or how about "The Good Wife" and "Blue Bloods," two top-quality shows, very popular shows.  You won't find them at the top of any 18-49 charts, but they generate terrific total viewer numbers on CBS, and both have scored very lucrative syndication deals.

This all adds up to a very robust TV world where the audience has abundant choices from a variety of voices.  There are many different ways for the viewer to engage and for us to get paid. 

It's an exciting time in our business.  Year-round programming, new business models, with the network front and center, providing content creators an even bigger stage on which to tell their stories. 

Nina Tassler.pngCBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler talks to TV critics on July 17, 2014

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