Next TV: Hulu Sale Uncertainty Swayed CBS’ SVOD Deals

The uncertainty last year over whether Hulu would be sold impacted CBS’ decisions on which SVOD companies to do distribution deals with, according Scott Koondel, CBS Corp. executive VP and chief corporate content licensing officer.

“Hulu was on the market and everyone was looking to buy it,” Koondel said Wednesday in an interview with Broadcasting & Cable editor in chief Melissa Grego at the Next TV Summit, where he confirmed he reupped with CBS in a multiyear deal and was promoted from senior VP to executive VP of the company and chief corporate content licensing officer.

When asked if decisions to cut deals with other companies last year were based on the uncertainty over Hulu’s future, Koondel said, “It definitely helped. Amazon and Netflix had a lot of stuff that we’d been looking at, and Hulu was a little paused until this sale went through.” CBS has signed several SVOD deals with Hulu since the latter company was pulled off the market.

Koondel also discussed the licensing agreement that CBS struck last year with Amazon for series Under the Dome, which allows Amazon to make new episodes available to their customers four days after they are broadcast on CBS.

“You want to deliver for your division heads, and Nina [Tassler, CBS entertainment chairman] really wanted this show on the air,” Koondel said. “I just sort of looked at it and said who will be the best player in the marketplace that will not only help subsidize the cost of this series, but who will also help market the series, who will help value it the highest.” The fact that Under the Dome was based on a novel by Stephen King gave Amazon an edge. “Amazon was clearly the best partner to have, because they sell books.”

On the topic of delayed viewing, Koondel expressed a strong preference for one model over another. He noted that about 70% of households have VOD capabilities—more than do DVR.

“If DVR went away tomorrow, we’d be fine with that,” he said, adding that VOD is preferable in part because DVR allows viewers to more easily skip over advertising. “What we like about VOD is that it completely enables us to monetize our content, even outside the C3 window. With all the announcements of dynamic ad insertion, that will afford us the opportunity to get paid for our content.”