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CBS’ summer hot streak continues.
The company announced Wednesday that it had inked a domestic deal with Netflix to air episodes of its 2015 summer series Zoo, a global thriller based on the James Patterson novel of the same name. The pact is said to be considerably richer than the ones Amazon made for Under the Dome and Extant, which has the e-commerce company paying close to $1 million per episode. In addition to the hefty fee, Netflix has agreed not to air Zoo until after the entire season has concluded on CBS. (With Dome and this summer’s Halle Berry vehicle, which Netflix had wanted as well, Amazon is able to put the series on its Prime Instant Video service four days after each episode airs.)
The recent suite first-of-their-kind licensing deals have made it possible for CBS to produce high-end, serialized scripted programming during the summer months. In fact, such pacts ensure these ambitious shows are profitable before they even hit the air. Given the way programming is consumed during the traditional season, CBS is not expected to embrace the same kind of SVOD deals for regular season series at this point.
“We’re excited to expand our relationship with Netflix as our premium subscription partner on Zoo,” said Scott Koondel, CBS’ chief corporate content licensing officer in a statement, adding: “This is another creative model to build a summer programming event on CBS and deliver Netflix members an addictive thrill ride series based on a story by one of the world’s biggest authors.”
Making the Patterson event series particularly appealing to Netflix is not only the way CBS has been able to drum up buzz for its summer entries but also the property (the book has sold more than 4 million copies globally) as well as the auspices attached. Zoo, which was ordered straight-to-series for 13 episodes earlier this month, is being written and executive produced by Jeff Pinkner (Fringe), Josh Appelbaum (Life on Mars, Star-Crossed), Andre Nemec (Star-Crossed) and Scott Rosenberg (Life on Mars). Joining them as EPs on the CBS TV Studios drama are James Mangold (Walk the Line), Cathy Konrad (Girl, Interrupted), Patterson, Bill Robinson, Leopoldo Gout and Steve Bowen.
“Zoo is just the kind of smart, gripping and shocking series that Netflix members love,” added Sean Carey, Netflix’s vp content licensing. “We are delighted to be offering all episodes to our U.S. members immediately after its airing on CBS.”
Much like the No. 1 New York Times best-seller published in 2012, the series will focus on a wave of violent animal attacks against humans across the planet. As the assaults become more cunning, coordinated and ferocious, a young renegade biologist is thrust into the race to unlock the pandemic’s mystery before there’s no place left for people to hide.
To be sure, CBS has benefited by being untethered while its rivals are owners in Hulu. The company set an internal precedent for multiplatform pacts with its innovative 2013 deal for The Good Wife, which sold to Hallmark, Amazon Prime and Hulu. In early February, CBS announced a syndication deal composed of cable (WGN America), network and SVOD (Hulu Plus) for Elementary that sources pegged at $3 million per episode. Though not quite as lucrative, the company also hammered out multiple pacts for another in-season drama, Blue Bloods. By taking the two dramas to market at the same time, a tactic that had not been tried before, they were able to generate industry buzz and a subsequent bidding war.
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