CBS move to own shows like 'MacGyver' pays off in overseas sales

Thu Jun 1, 2017 7:10am EDT
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By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Just over a decade ago, CBS Corp (CBS.N: Quote) accelerated its push to own more of the shows it broadcasts, rather than licensing them from studios.

That expensive and potentially risky decision is starting to pay dividends as the network's international sales rise and more viewers watch television online.

CBS figured correctly that owning a show, such as the reboot of the 1980s hit "MacGyver," would allow it to take a greater share of sales to international and domestic buyers.

More recently, that approach has allowed it to maximize the value of deals with streaming services like Netflix Inc (NFLX.O: Quote) while driving more subscribers to its own TV app.

That new-found power is helping CBS, just as it and rival networks are getting squeezed by young viewers who "cut the cord" on their expensive cable packages, contributing to a dip in the advertising dollars that are TV companies' traditional mainstay.

Global hits that CBS owns, like "Hawaii Five-O" and "NCIS," helped swell CBS's international content licensing revenue to $1.5 billion in 2015, up from $500 million 10 years earlier. That represented 11 percent of total revenue, compared with about 3.5 percent a decade ago.

Last year, such dramas got an average of 36 percent of revenue internationally, according to previously unpublished data shown to Reuters by CBS. Ten years ago, comparable shows on average got 16 percent of their revenue from international distributors.

In total, CBS owns all of part of 26 shows from its lineup of 31 for the 2017-2018 season. That is a significant bump up from 10 years ago, when it owned just 16 shows out of 26.   Continued...

FILE PHOTO: The CBS television network logo is seen outside their offices on 6th avenue in New York, U.S. on May 19, 2016.   REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo