CBS Eyes All-Digital Access

Multiplatform strategy leads SVOD charge, draws younger demos with new 24-hour digital nets
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CBS would easily qualify as B&C’s 2015 Multiplatform Broadcaster of the Year simply on the basis of two fall 2014 product launches: CBS All Access, which was the first subscription video-on-demand service launched by a major broadcast network, and CBSN, a 24-hour digital news channel that is working to reinvent a network news experience.

But those launches are only two highlights in a multiplatform strategy that is focused making CBS’ content available on a rapidly growing number of digital platforms.

Thanks to those efforts, CBS Interactive, CBS Television and CBS.com set records for multiplatform unique visitors/viewers and for total minutes in September of 2015 while CBS Sports Digital saw a 37% bounce in usage so far this year, making it the fastest-growing sports property between January and October, according to comScore.

“All of our products are coming into the end of the year even hotter, with our biggest months in the past couple of months,” said Jim Lanzone, president-CEO, CBS Interactive.

Meanwhile, the CBS All Access SVOD offering has aggressively expanded its live streams of local affiliates to 115 markets and has begun investing in original content, with a Star Wars series on tap for a January 2017 debut and the fledgling CBSN 24-hour digital news network has ranked No. 1 among news channels on the Roku streaming media platform since its launch in November 2014.

Both services are also helping the broadcaster reach the next generation of viewers, Lanzone says. Nearly 70% of CBS All Access viewers are in the 18-49 demo, with millennials making up 32% of the audience, while CBSN skews even younger. “The average age of the CBSN viewer is around 40, and it is even younger on OTT [devices like Roku], with the average in the mid-30s,” Lanzone says.

One key competitive advantage for CBS in a multiplatform world is the wide array of digital properties run by CBS Interactive, according to Lanzone. Its digital offering, which includes all the CBS branded sites and apps as well as CNET, TV Guide Digital, GameSpot, Last.fm and others, reach about 300 million global unique visitors each month. Overall CBSI was the seventh largest Internet property in comScore’s multiplatform rankings for October 2015.

That has allowed them to build up a robust technology platform for streaming major events like the upcoming Super Bowl 50, and gives them extensive experience that can be shared across multiple divisions and sites.

“Because we are one digital hub across all of CBS and we run all of those different properties, we can take those learnings and feed it back through the entire group,” Lanzone says. “Some of our best learning for CBSN and CBS Sports has come out of things we’ve learned at CNET and GameSpot.”

For example, GameSpot users, who are extremely active on social media, helped them hone social media tactics for CBS Sports, which has had its best year ever, Lanzone says, and the launch of Stephen Colbert’s Late Show. “We were working with the Colbert team from the very beginning, and it is now the most-watched digital stream we’ve ever had,” he said.

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