CBS, Amazon in SVOD deal for Spielberg series

CBS said Monday that it has entered into a deal with Amazon that will give the retail giant’s Amazon Prime the exclusive right to offer streamed episodes of the new show from Stephen Spielberg‘s production company, “Under The Dome,” during the program’s first season.

Amazon Prime members will get unlimited streaming of each episode of the show, based on a Stephen King novel,  four days after its initial broadcast on CBS, at no additional cost. CBS will air 13 episodes of “Under The Dome” this summer.

Amazon’s Instant Video can be viewed over the Kindle Fire HD, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Roku, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Wii U gaming console.

“Amazon has the distinct combination of having a terrific video service with a huge fan base among their customers for Stephen King’s book, making them the perfect partner for this summer programming event,” said Scott Koondel, CBS’ chief corporate content licensing officer, in a statement.

CBS had announced last November that it was going to look for a subscription video-on-demand partner for “Under The Dome,” the latest that all the momentum around streaming video players like Netflix, Hulu and  Amazon Prime was forcing traditional networks to think differently. Previously the assumption had been that it was fine to offer episodes of a current show’s previous seasons, or library content like “The Twilight Zone” or the original “Hawaii Five-O,” but there would be too much risk of cannibalization if people could simply wait a couple of days and watch in-season episodes online.

In this  case, CBS wants to find a way to attract more viewers during the summer months, when cable has more appeal to many viewers.

Further, the sharp ratings decline for the broadcast networks this season, on the heels of last season’s, will surely be another factor that leads to a wider range of SVOD licensing deals.

Meanwhile, some observers will note with a raised eyebrow that Netflix, which has considerable momentum right now with its recent Walt Disney Co. deal and the launch of “House of Cards,” didn’t land this CBS deal.

Amazon Prime now has more than 36,000 movies and TV episodes in its library, and while Netflix’s selection is far greater (though the exact number of titles seems to be a closely-guarded company secret), part of the bear case against Netflix is that Amazon, with its much deeper pockets, could easily outbid Reed Hastings’ company for content if it so desired, and that it’s only a matter of time before that scenario unfolds.

Of course, this deal hardly indicates anything like that. Amazon will nonetheless be interesting to watch over the year or so as it ramps up its streaming efforts.

— David B. Wilkerson