How CBS Strategizes Cross-Screen Video

CBSvideoDepending on whom you survey, linear TV viewership is either flat or rapidly declining. Thus, increasing digital’s revenue share is a priority for networks like CBS.

In 2010, CBS started doing audience profile studies and, this year, found that 30% of users didn’t subscribe to a cable package, according to Domenic DiMeglio, VP of distribution and operations for CBS Interactive, speaking Thursday at the Direct Marketing Association’s annual Mobile Marketing Day.

That percentage has steadily increased, and “we knew people without cable TV still wanted TV content.”

This discovery spurred CBS’ Q4 roll-out of streaming service CBS All Access, which CEO Leslie Moonves claimed during an investor conference this week has more subscribers than the 100,000 on DISH’s Sling TV. He also revealed CBS-owned Showtime will soon rival HBO with its own streaming subscription service.

These developments are new monetization opportunities for CBS, which claims to generate 10% to 20% more return on ad dollars for viewers of IP-streamed video than TV.

“We’re looking for ways to find unique content opportunities,” DiMeglio said. While All Access’ core targets are the so-called “cord cutters” and “cord nevers,” the streaming portal also targets viewers with cable TV subscriptions who want more options and perks, such as access to live feeds from all episodes of “Big Brother.”

Additionally, a new data-driven marketing group supports new products such as CBS All Access, DiMeglio said. 

CBS intends to think of mobile as the first screen and experiments with different creative and copy, using data to understand what ads to keep in rotation by evaluating things like click-throughs and CPAs.

CBS All Access, the heart of the broadcaster’s digital audience development effort, provides access to live viewing, 6,500 episodes on-demand and next-day access to new episodes on the CBS App for $5.99 a month following a free, one-week trial.

CBS All Access will begin to solve another network challenge, DiMeglio said: developing persistent viewer profiles to improve content and ad delivery. Another service that supports this effort is My CBS, which enables viewers to sign in and build personalized desktop and mobile video playlists.

“As a result we’ve seen more registrations, and because the user is creating their own playlists, we get more insights and can go beyond ad targeting to make the experience more personal,” DiMeglio said.

CBS is also focused on development around its new, live-streaming news network CBSN, accessible from and eight connected devices including Roku and Amazon Fire TV.

Although DiMeglio said desktop views for its live-streaming news network are higher than on over-the-top platforms, average time spent is higher on OTT devices, “and we’ve found CBSN viewers on Roku watch an average of more than two hours per week.”

CBS knows its audience wants more mobile access, but cross-screen measurement is still a problem. If CBSSports, for instance, invests in a mobile NCAA March Madness tournament bracket, like it did for the first time last year, the network wants to accurately measure its performance.

Although Nielsen and comScore are collectively pushing cross-platform measurement, there isn’t yet a single platform that comprehensively links linear, set-top box, streaming and mobile audience viewing.

Thus, Nielsen and CBS are collectively rolling out a TV ad effectiveness initiative called Campaign Performance Audit at next week’s Advertising Research Foundation ReThink event, the goal being to measure the true ROI of an ad from creation to cross-platform execution.

“We have seen the competition heat up between measurers, which is accelerating the pace of innovation, but our advertisers have to stitch together reports with different methodologies from different platforms to understand the effectiveness of their buys,” DiMeglio said. “In the video space, we need to make sure things are accurately measured for our advertisers and for our own market buys.”

Correction: CBS found 30% of users no longer subscribe to a cable package in 2014, while audience studies originated in 2010. The story has been updated to reflect the proper year.

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