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On the Call: CBS may stream more current TV shows

The Associated Press

The online video deal that CBS Corp. announced with service Hulu Plus this week reflected its philosophy that Web streaming was potentially a threat to its traditional TV business. But that view is changing.

The Hulu deal was limited to past CBS shows that were not airing new episodes on TV. As an example, CBS licensed to Hulu its dramas Medium and Numb3rs.

But in a conference call with analysts Wednesday, CEO Les Moonves described a new approach that the broadcaster may take going forward.

It is contemplating selling past seasons of shows that are still on TV. That would allow viewers to catch up on past seasons, and act as an enticement for them to tune in to new episodes as they come on TV.

The move could help boost audiences and profits, Moonves said. It would be similar to selling reruns of current shows to other pay TV networks and non-CBS TV stations, a secondary market that is known as selling shows into syndication.

QUESTION: With respect to your commentary on selling current series' past seasons into online distribution potentially, what was your thought process there? What made you arrive at this point today, where you think you might be ready to do it? More importantly, what do you think the monetization of that kind of content would be? Do you think it's similar to the kind of levels you're seeing in traditional syndication for that same kind of content?

RESPONSE: It is definitely a shift for us. We've looked at the results from Netflix and Amazon and we're getting more and more information from streaming on our own sites, and in certain cases, we have come to the conclusion that streaming the previous seasons of certain shows will actually be of benefit to it as it has been with syndication, as we have seen with NCIS when it went into syndication, ratings went up. Big Bang, ratings went up. So we're now taking a look and as you know, Netflix really would like to do that. And we have deals in place for previous seasons at very good rates. So it is looking like it is very attractive obviously to the bottom line. As well, we think it would be a help to the network, not a hindrance, to do that. What could that mean? It could mean tens of millions of dollars. It can be the equivalent, or even better than, or part of, syndication. In other words, like we do internationally, you take a show and you look at slicing it and dicing it in very, very different ways than you ever did before and it's great that now you have 12 revenue streams instead of just the basic fastball down the middle with syndication.