Does CBS and Amazon's 'Under the Dome' Deal Hurt Cable?

Under The Dome Amazon CBS - H 2013

Under The Dome Amazon CBS - H 2013

The hit sci-fi series streams on Amazon Prime four days after it airs on TV; FX Networks' John Landgraf calls the move a "bad change in policy for the larger ecosystem."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

Amazon is getting back Under the Dome. But at what price?

Jeff Bezos' online retailer has re-upped its deal with CBS for exclusive rights to stream episodes of the sci-fi series on its Prime service only four days after they air on TV, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves announced Sept. 11 at a conference in Beverly Hills.

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Moonves said that by preselling international and digital rights, the show, from Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television and based on a Stephen King novel, was made profitable before it ever aired. After it became the summer's most watched scripted series, he added, "profit was pretty phenomenal." Not everyone, though, is enthralled that CBS is giving Amazon access to episodes so soon after their TV airing.

FX Networks CEO John Landgraf said during a Hollywood Radio & Television Society panel Sept. 10 that the deal represents a "bad change in policy for the larger ecosystem" and decreases the value of CBS to cable and satellite distributors. "You have to deny it to people who don't pay that subscription," he added.

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BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield agrees, telling THR: "It's great for CBS. I just worry about impact on the ecosystem." But Northlake Capital analyst Steve Birenberg says the Under the Dome deal is an experiment unlikely to be duplicated to the extent it harms the status quo. He notes, "Moonves recognizes the changes that are impacting TV viewing, and without making an all-or-nothing bet, he is willing to do different deals."