Today CBS Corporation announced their first-quarter earnings results for 2019, which included a follow-up conference call with the investment press. On the call, the acting CEO of CBS talked up the planned international expansion of CBS Access and also noted how the Picard show will appeal overseas.
Discovery Season 2 helps deliver the best quarter yet for All Access
Acting CEO Joe Ianniello talked up the continued growth of CBS All Access, home of Star Trek on TV, saying that the first quarter of the year saw a jump of 71% in subscriptions. He used the growth of All Access as an example of how the company’s investment in programming is paying off:
The driving force behind our direct-to-consumer services and our entire company is our premium must-have content and we continue to increase our output. This year we are on track to invest more than $8 billion in programming…the benefits of this content-driven strategy were on full display at CBS All Access in the first quarter. Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery started in January, and the return of The Good Fight dropped in March. Add to that Super Bowl LIII and March Madness and CBS All Access had its biggest quarter of sub[scription] growth ever. The momentum continues here into Q2 with the The Twilight Zone, which was the most watched original premeire on CBS All Access and which we just renewed for a second season.
Earlier this year CBS already said they passed their goal of 8 million subscribers (split evenly between CBS All Access and Showtime) and the acting CEO said the latest quarter has the more optimistic about the future, noting:
Between our content investment and our expansion onto new platforms, we feel even better today than we did just a quarter ago about reaching our [domestic] target of 25 million direct-to-consumer subs in 2022.
Also on the call was head of CBS Interactive Jim Lanzone who also pointed to the investment in more in original content as the key to keeping subscribers:
We have been very happy to see many lapsed users come back to All Access upon the seasonal return of their favorite content. We think of these users as “pausing” their membership instead of canceling it in the traditional sense and the data suggests our investment in content across CBS will be our most effective tool for eliminating or reducing the pause cycle for these users, as well as deepening their engagement.
Picard show’s global appeal
When going over the 2019 slate of original programming planned for CBS All Access, Ianniello added an interesting note:
We will launch a whole new Star Trek series starring Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, which will have strong international appeal.
It’s noteworthy that the CEO talked about the international appeal of the Picard show because as of now, it is not known when or where the show will be available outside of the USA. The Picard show is set to premiere in the USA on CBS All Access later in 2019, and went into production in April.
While the Star Trek: Discovery exclusive international deal with Netflix was announced early on in development, CBS has yet to announce how the new Picard show will be distributed around the world. Speaking to TrekMovie in March, Picard show executive producer Alex Kurtzman said news on the international distribution of the show “will be coming very soon.”
All Access global headed next to Latin America and Western Europe
One possible home for the Picard show would be All Access outside of the USA. While the service is currently only available in two countries, Ianniello said that is going to change:
We launched All Access in Canada a year ago and followed it up with 10 All Access in Australia last fall. Next up, we will launch our direct-to-consumer services in Latin America and Western Europe, two regions where we see high growth potential and strong interest in our premium content.
When pressed during the Q&A, the CEO would not commit to a specific timeline regarding the international expansion saying they are taking their time and being methodical, adding “we are going as quickly as possible but thorough, focused on making sure the offering to the consumer is robust.” But he also said that CBS is committed to rolling subscription streaming to 200 countries around the world, adding it was “probably singlehandedly the largest opportunity ahead of us.”
Ianniello noted the company will be pragmatic as it looks to international licensing in territories where it is planning on expanding its own service:
It’s country by country and franchise by franchise. I don’t think we are saying anything now or in the future that we are not going to license content to third parties. Sometimes if they can pay you more money because they have the better infrastructure to monetize it, we will take that money and reinvest it into our businesses.
NOTE: Article has been updated to include longer quotes from the investor call for more context.
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