In a time when many media companies are getting more exclusive with their content, CBS Studios is taking the opposite approach.
While media giants like Walt Disney Co. and AT&T Inc.’s WarnerMedia create content to serve only on their own platforms, CBS Studios encourages its talent to team up with other members of the industry. As a smaller studio, CBS depends on sales to other media companies both for revenue and as a way to build up its own portfolio.
CBS and Its Creative Platform
CBS writer Liz Feldman recently created a new dark comedy, Dead to Me. It’s the story of a woman who is struggling after the hit-and-run death of her husband. It was a very different type of story from the lighthearted comedy that Feldman was brought on to write. While the show wasn’t a good fit for CBS’s audience, it seemed perfect for Netflix. CBS executives encouraged her to work with the streaming giant, and both companies profited from the deal.
CBS has sold 66 shows across 14 platforms this season. Its customers include Netflix, Starz and TBS, among others. Streaming services pay a fee upfront for the rights to CBS’s content, which has helped with cash flow.
Other successful shows produced by CBS for other outlets include the comedy Insatiable, a black comedy about a beauty pageant queen, for Netflix, and Diary of a Female President, the story of a young girl’s intentions for the White House, for Disney. Upcoming shows include a drama called Unbelievable, which will premiere on Netflix later this year, and a reboot of the 1990s series Beverly Hills 90210 that will air on Fox.
CBS is also in the process of developing undisclosed content for Amazon.com’s Prime Video, Hulu and Apple’s new media service.
Although selling to other platforms has been useful to CBS, it can be risky. After just two seasons, Netflix recently canceled American Vandal, a mockumentary series parodying The Jinx and Making a Murderer. Due to the restrictions in the contract with Netflix, the show couldn’t be moved to All Access, CBS’s streaming platform.
The Search for the Perfect Fit
Other smaller television programming producers such as Viacom’s Paramount Television and Sony Pictures Television have taken a similar approach as CBS. There is a possibility that Viacom and CBS will merge, which would give the new studio an extensive reach across a number of platforms.
Although many studios would prefer to produce a wide range of entertainment, CBS is more concerned with finding the perfect home for each show. CBS’s president, David Stapf, believes that there are more than enough good ideas to go around. He said of his process, “We looked inward and said, ‘Where is this show going to thrive, where is it going to stay on the air, where does it belong?’”