Paramount to Provide CBS Network Feed to FuboTV If Affiliates Opt Out of Deal (Updated)

NCIS: Hawai’i on CBS
‘NCIS: Hawai’i’ on CBS (Image credit: Karen Neal/CBS)

Paramount Global will provide FuboTV with a CBS network feed — stripped of local programming — to stream in markets where CBS affiliates turned down a distribution fee deal negotiated by the network.

According to a confidential memo sent to affiliates by the CBS affiliate board and obtained by Broadcasting+Cable, CBS set a 5 p.m. Friday deadline for stations to opt in or out of the deal. In markets where stations opt out, their programming will be replaced with the network feed on Fubo effective Monday at 5 p.m. 

The national feed, including sports and primetime shows, with use content from the CBS News Streaming Network to replace a station's local programming including local newscasts, CBS said.

The new deal with the sports-focused streamer would run until after CBS broadcasts the Super Bowl in 2024. 

“FuboTV’s affiliation agreement with Paramount Global includes our right to carry CBS-owned and operated local stations and affiliated stations upon their election to opt into it,” Fubo said in a statement Friday. “Unfortunately, some CBS affiliates have decided not to opt into our current agreement. In those affected affiliate markets, Fubo will switch customers to a national feed of CBS’s signal, allowing our customers to continue watch their favorite CBS programming.”

The affiliate board said it did not endorse the last offer it got from Paramount. Negotiations have been going on for six months, and the board said the current, “last-minute” proposal was worse than earlier proposals. Paramount has ignored counter offers made by the affiliates and their efforts to negotiate their own retransmission deal, the board said.

One affiliate told B+C that Paramount was lowballing the affiliates. The board noted that in addition to negotiating for carriage of the stations, Paramount is also negotiating a rate that includes the company’s cable networks, presenting a conflict of interest.

As of the Friday deadline, some affiliates have agreed to opt in, one source indicated. Others may do so before station signals are dropped on Monday.

In 2017, CBS reached a deal with its affiliates under which the stations and the network would work together on distribution to streaming platforms including CBS All Access (now Paramount Plus) and also virtual MVPDs like YouTube TV and Hulu Plus Live TV.

“CBS Affiliates initially allowed the former CBS Corporation to control this distribution for a short period of time to facilitate the quick launch of nascent vMVPDs,” the board memo said. “Unfortunately, this initial support of vMVPDs has led to a broken system through which Paramount today seeks to control the retransmission on Fubo (and the other vMVPDs) of all CBS Affiliates’ signals.”

At this point, “the CBS Affiliates Board remains adamantly opposed to Paramount’s insistence on controlling the retransmission rights of independently-owned local CBS affiliates on vMVPD platforms like Fubo.”

Stations that opt out of the network’s agreement with Fubo are able to negotiate with the vMVPD to get their local programming carried, the memo said.

“CBS, through the Affiliate Board, has provided our affiliates a fair opportunity to continue their carriage on FuboTV with short-term, mid-term and long-term options, including under the existing contract. Unfortunately and inexplicably, the Board has not endorsed any of our multiple solutions. This may result in certain CBS affiliates electing to discontinue their local feeds on the FuboTV platform," CBS said. 

“In an effort to prevent a viewer disruption in affected markets, CBS may provide a national network content feed to ensure that FuboTV subscribers retain access to news, sports and entertainment programming from America’s most-watched broadcast network,” CBS said. “We are committed to working in good faith, and we hope the Affiliate Board will reconsider the opportunity on behalf of its CBS affiliates.” ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.

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