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Facebook, Apple, & Netflix Seek Rights for Live Broadcasts

Facebook, Apple, & Netflix Seek Rights for Live Broadcasts

Watching TV shows online means waiting a day, avoiding spoilers and missing out on live-tweeting. Perhaps not for much longer.

CBS Corp. Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves told Bloomberg TV on Thursday that his network is in talks with Apple, Netflix and Facebook about bringing live television events online. He said the deal with Apple will “probably” be reached, although he is not certain when.

Traditional TV’s Last Stronghold

In 2012, Moonves indicated that CBS would bring content directly to consumers if the evolution of the business made it necessary. He told the “Wall Street Journal” at that time, “If the universe changes and they [viewers] want us to bring the content directly to them, then we can.”

It seems from these recent moves that that day is approaching.

Live events have been seen as the last stronghold of traditional television. Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos told a media conference in May 2015 that live events were television’s “natural migration” and “real saving grace,” according to a report at BusinessInsider.com. Despite overall television viewing continuing to fall, for example, the Super Bowl has set ratings records for six of the last seven years, according to “Variety.”

Apple, Netflix and Facebook In Talks

The developments with Apple were expected since the Apple TV box was announced in September 2015. At that time, Apple didn’t mention its streaming service, which is rumored to launch in 2016. Originally scheduled for fall 2015, it has been delayed due to ongoing licensing negotiations with content providers, which Moonves suggests may be reaching a conclusion. However, the “New York Times” is reporting that Comcast and NBCUniversal is no longer participating in the talks.

Netflix’s role in the negotiations is a bit more mysterious. It could be they are interested in order to revive stalling subscription numbers. According to CNNMoney, the company added 880,000 in the third quarter of 2015, but that was 100,000 fewer than the same quarter in 2014.

However, as of Wednesday Netflix still denied any interest in carrying sports live. CNET.com reported that Sarandos said for live sports the price is too high and Netflix’s focus is on content that can be watched anytime, which doesn’t work for sports. Netflix is expanding in other areas, including original movies – their first film premieres Friday – and they are in development of a weekly talk show and news programming.

Facebook’s interest in video is seen as making them a rival to YouTube. Fox Business’ Cheryl Casone reported Wednesday that Facebook would be adding a “video” button with the ability to search and save videos to watch later, among other features. In August, Facebook began a live-streaming video service called “Live” allowing celebrities to connect with their fans, although it is not yet clear whether the service will be expanded to other users.

In early October, Bloomberg.com reported that Amazon has also contacted CBS Corp. and NBCUniversal about broadcasting live TV. Although Amazon was not mentioned in the most recent discussion, it is possible they are still in the mix as well.

New Models Explored

Moonves indicated he sees the deal with CBS and Apple as “a matter of time.” The previous delay over licensing issues had to do with affiliate rights, because the affiliates actually control the feeds. “The New York Post” reported in July that the networks were working on a deal that allowed them to negotiate on behalf of the various affiliate groups, simplifying the process for Apple.

One response by cable companies to online competition and complaints about high rates followed by cord-cutting is the development of “skinny bundles,” which are small cable packages that may feature a theme, such as sports stations. The negotiations between the networks and online outlets may follow a similar model. For example, in order for Apple to acquire rights to ABC programming live, ABC may require Apple to take a few other Disney-owned stations along for the ride.

For the networks, this means getting their content out in as many formats as possible – a win for them. For the consumer, it gets them closer to creating a custom lineup, but possibly still paying for some content they don’t watch to get what they do watch – but perhaps at faster speed and far lower cost.

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tv