CBS All Access to Ramp Up Originals to Take on Netflix, Says CBS Exec

Joseph Ianniello - Publicity - P 2017
Courtesy of CBS

At an investors conference, Joseph Ianniello also talked 'The Twilight Zone' reboot, Showtime and international expansion.

CBS COO Joseph Ianniello on Tuesday said CBS All Access, the broadcast giant's over the top streaming service, will bulk up on original series to drive subscriptions to the platform, in the U.S. and internationally, against Netflix.

"We're increasing investment in originals," Ianniello told the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, during a presentation that was webcast. "We're doubling down there. You're going to see six to seven originals on CBS All Access in the next 12 months." 

The increasing investment in originals comes as rivals like Viacom, Disney, HBO and Starz launch direct-to-consumer streaming services to target cord-cutters in a fast-changing media landscape. "This is an arms race to get there. I don't know that there will be 30 direct-to-consumer channels that will be out there, but it will likely be an oligopoly at the end of the day, and we want to be one of them," Ianniello said of the current OTT business.

He didn't discuss current talks on a possible merger between Viacom and CBS. But on the originals front, Ianniello added CBS All Access is following up the "phenomenal" success of the Star Trek: Discovery revival and the earlier drama The Good Fight with the upcoming The Twilight Zone reboot from Jordan Peele.

"We're able to attract that level of talent to do this in a streaming service, because of the opportunity it provides," Ianniello said of bringing newly minted Oscar winner Peele, who just won best original screenplay for his sleeper hit Get Out, to the streaming service.

He added that after selling Star Wars: Discovery to Netflix for the rest of the world, the jury is still out on whether to sell The Twilight Zone reboot to Netflix or Amazon for the world market or break it up and sell the series to individual markets.

Other upcoming originals include the Kevin Williamson fairy-tale anthology Tell Me a Story, Strange Angel, and the comedy No Activity. On the international front, Ianniello said Canada and Australia will be test markets for the expansion of CBS All Access beyond the U.S.

"Wherever Netflix is, I don't see why we won't be there," he added about the eventual rollout of CBS All Access worldwide. Similarly, with Showtime, a "global affiliated network model" is in the works as new international partners like Bell Media in Canada and Sky in the U.K. offer the premium cable network and its vast library of content to local subscribers.

It's no secret that CBS has Netflix in its sights as it expands internationally. "We obviously watch Netflix and we see what they can do and say — what percentage of Netflix can we be, based on the content we have?" Ianniello told the investors conference.