As the Streaming Wars Heat Up, Don’t Forget About CBS All Access

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CBS All Access was launched a little over four years ago — Oct. 16, 2014 — and Marc DeBevoise remembers exactly what happened.

“We knew what the strategy was all along, we knew where we were headed and we knew what we wanted to do with it,” DeBevoise, president and COO of CBS Interactive, tells TheWrap. “Frankly, it was an incomplete product when we launched it.” But in the last couple of years, CBS Interactive, which runs All Access, has been working to transform the service into a major player in the streaming world.

The subscription streaming product, initially a way for non-TV subscribers to watch the CBS broadcast network, as well as the network’s catalog of shows like “The Brady Bunch” and “I Love Lucy,” debuted the day after HBO made its own announcement that it would too jump into the streaming space with HBO Now.

Also Read: CBS Names Showtime’s David Nevins as Chief Creative Officer

It wasn’t easy at first.

When CBS announced in late 2015 it was developing a new “Star Trek” TV show for All Access, it was supposed to be the streamer’s coming out party. However, “Star Trek Discovery” was beset by behind-the-scenes drama, including showrunner changes that resulted in delays. But CBS is confident the show is now on track under Alex Kurtzman. “‘Discovery’ remains on course for Season 2 in 2019,” the studio said in June.

Since then, CBS All Access has ramped up its original-scripted slate with shows from producers including Will Ferrell (“No Activity”) and Ridley Scott, whose “Strange Angel” was just renewed for a second season. All Access also has “Why Women Kill” from “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry on the horizon, and perhaps its buzziest project: a reboot of “The Twilight Zone,” led by Jordan Peele that has already cast Sanaa Lathan and Adam Scott.

The company is also expanding its “Star Trek” universe with the animated “Lower Decks” and an upcoming series that will star Sir Patrick Stewart as his “Next Generation” character, Jean-Luc Picard. A miniseries based on former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir is being developed by CBS TV Studios, with All Access as a potential landing spot.

Also Read: CBS All Access, Showtime Streaming Services to Hit 8 Million Subscribers by 2019

“It is, of course, early days and the marketplace is very saturated,” Julie McNamara, executive VP, original content, CBS All Access, told TheWrap. “But we feel that we’ve taken really good first steps and are more than holding our own.” She said CBS All Access will have 10 originals on its slate in 2019.

CBS All Access lags behind the other major players in the streaming space. During the TCA press tour this summer, CBS said it had 2.5 million subscribers, with the goal of upping that number to 4 million in 2019 and 8 million by 2022. That is a far cry from Netflix, which has more than 60 million subscribers in the U.S. alone, while Hulu has more than 20 million paying customers.

In the next year, the streaming space will continue to grow, with WarnerMedia, Apple and Disney all launching their own direct-to-consumer offerings. But DeBevoise argues that when compared to other traditional media companies, CBS’ four-year head start gives them an advantage. “We’re in a place where we deeply understand that business. We were ahead of that curve.”

It also helps that David Nevins, who was just named chief creative officer for CBS Corp., will help steer CBS All Access’ content decisions. While All Access will still be led by McNamara, she argues it can only be a good thing to have Nevins, who built Showtime’s scripted originals business in the same building.

“It is wonderful anytime you have a smart creative person sitting next to you as you’re making the big decisions, I would never be unhappy about that,” she said.

Also Read: Adam Scott Joins Jordan Peele’s ‘Twilight Zone’ in Reinvention of Classic Episode

On Wednesday, CBS All Access debuted the first episode of “Tell Me a Story,” its dark fairy tale-inspired drama that weaves in classic fables like “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” The series, created by Kevin Williamson (“Scream,” “The Following” “Dawson’s Creek”), also features Kim Cattrall’s first TV role since “Sex and the City.”

Williamson likened working with All Access on “Tell Me a Story” to his days on “Dawson’s Creek.” “It reminded me of ‘Dawson’s Creek’ when I was at The WB in the very beginning,” he said. “It was just a handful of people over there with a small little baby network just pushing along.”

A veteran of the traditional broadcast space with shows like “The Following,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Stalker,” Williamson had grown tired of the broadcast pilot model, where as many as 90 different projects are being developed simultaneously under a big corporate umbrella. Although All Access is a part of CBS Corp., Williamson said it felt more like a smaller indie studio.

“You sort of feel like it’s more an intimate place to work, you’re getting notes from the people who are actually making the decisions,” he said. “It’s not being filtered through seven different development executives.”

Also Read: Jordan Peele to Host His ‘Twilight Zone’ Revival: Hear Him Do Rod Serling’s Iconic Intro (Video)

It’s that relationship aspect that McNamara, who came over to All Access in 2016 after 10 years with CBS TV Studios, argues will keep the brand competitive. Williamson said that he felt like “one of their chosen children” when they picked up his show.

“People do want to feel that their project is in really good hands and that the people they’re working with feel that it’s as important to them as to the creator,” said McNamara. “That matters. I don’t think it’s always necessarily having the most money to bring to the table.”

But it’s not like All Access won’t spend the dollars it takes to compete in the prestige streaming space. Netflix, Apple, Hulu and Amazon are all spending ambitiously big-time creative talent including Jennifer Aniston, Shonda Rhimes, Ryan Murphy and Kenya Barris.

“It’s not exactly as much, but we’re in the top tier of content spenders of all these companies. Our content spending is not something to laugh at,” said DeBevoise.

“When we decided to make a ‘Star Trek’ show for a premium space, we knew we were going to have to spend the kind of dollars to make that feel like it wouldn’t necessarily exist on a broadcast network,” said McNamara. “That was our burden and obligation to the fans.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

CBS All Access Renews Ridley Scott-Produced ‘Strange Angel’ for Season 2

CBS All Access Beams up ‘Star Trek’ Animated Series ‘Lower Decks’ for 2 Seasons

Sanaa Lathan Boards Jordan Peele’s ‘Twilight Zone’ for CBS All Access

Vice, CBS Interactive Ink Deal for Tech Content Series ‘Dear Future’

Read on: Variety.

Vice Media’s Motherboard and CBS Interactive’s CNET have set aside their competitive differences to make some money on a series exploring the tech of tomorrow. Under the pact, Vice and CBSI will jointly produce “Dear Future,” a series focusing on technology topics including space travel, the ethics of genome editing, internet freedom, the future of… Read more »

Party Report in Pictures: Inside Fergie, Nicki Minaj, Ashton Kutcher’s Fashion Huddle (Photos)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

The front row always matters, even if it’s not a fashion show. Influential fashion trade the Daily Front Row lived up to its name with a knockout lineup at it’s 4th annual Fashion Los Angeles Awards at the Sunset Tower on April 2.

Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, and Fergie made a close-knit troika. Minaj took selfies during the presentation of awards to stylists and trendsetters. Before the event, the Sunset Terrace was empty as the 200 VIPs in attendance gathered around the carpet in a new position at the Sunset Tower – over the pool.Fergie, and arguably one of the top 10 most famous women in the world, met up on the pool deck during the cocktail hour. The crowd was an ego-destroyer: a genetic seas of bones and height that makes the Oscar crowd look like Comic-Con.

The Fashion L.A. Awards huddled a group including stylists Karla Welch (presented by Busy Phillips), Samantha McMillen (presented by client Ashton Kutcher), Stephen Gan (honored eloquently by Lee Daniels, who was wearing red flip flops) and Minaj, who was honored as “Fashion Rebel”.

“When the person I know myself to be meets the person I want you to think I am, it’s called ‘vulberability’,” Kutcher said of his relationship and collaboration on his look with stylist McMillen.

Paris Jackson’s deb-ball year continues. After an apperance at the GLAAD Media Awards the night before, Paris was turning heads even in this room, posing here with Daily Front Row Editor-In-Chief Brandusa Niro.

Stella Maxwell (with host Nick Jonas and Lily Aldridge at the Mr. Chow after party) is first biological example of someone who disappears when they turn to the side.

I know nothing about high fashion except that her dress size has to be “one sheet of paper.”

Stella Maxwell (with host Nick Jonas and Lily Aldridge at the Mr. Chow after party) is first biological example of someone who disappears when they turn to the side.

I know nothing about high fashion except that her dress size has to be “one sheet of paper.”

The sellout crowd at Dodger stadium for an opening day demolition of the San Diego Padres (14-3) included Emily Ratajkowski perched up in the new “Bud & Burgers” suite.

A select group of L.A. foodie influencers (think: Vice, Thrillist etc.) got the first bites of the Dodger Dog’s new cousin…

The Official Burger of the L.A. Dodgers (it has a Dodger Dog inside, which solves the dilemna for those who can’t decide whether they want to throw a dog or a burger in their mouth while watching Clayton Kershaw throw heat.)

It’s $13.50 in the stadium. Also new, team specific Budweiser cans designed by local artists.

Over 300 leaders in Gen-Z female video gathered at Tubefilter’s meetup panel and townhall on “How Niche Female Programming is Capturing Big Audiences”.

From left, the panel included: Elyssa Starkman (Beautycon’s new Head of Content), Rachel Evans (of co-host Snarled and “The Dark Five”), Jason Ziemianski (Co-Founder/Chief Strategy Officer of Snarled), host/Tubefilter founder Drew Baldwin, Sarah Early (UTA), Gayle Gilman (Co-Founder/CEO Ripple Entertainment and Snarled), and Laci Green (leading YouTuber on Sex Education),

The conversation centered on Gen-Z video created by and for Gen-Z personalities and a sometimes awkward courtship with brands that seek access to that audience via outdated demographic data.

“Look at the census,” Beautycon’s Starkman said.  “(Brands) should not be programming to the part of America that is going to be the minority in America next year.”

The crowd at Tubefilter’s quarterly meetup series at Busby’s included execs from CBS Interactive, the MCN’s, PR firms, and independent creators.

“You have to thread that needle of being both ‘the influencer’ and a publisher,” Snarled’s Jason Ziemianski said.  “Otherwise, you’re just a content farm and you’re not going to develop the loyalty that we see in Laci (Green). .

Meanwhile in Vegas, Aluna George was one of the featured performers at the opening of the new W Las Vegas Hotel. It occupies one tower of the SLS on the north end of the strip.

Players rush in to a new casino on opening night hoping for good luck.  This crowd on Friday night (March 31) included Jesse Metcalfe, Cara Santana, NFL star Danny Amendola, and Olivia Culpo.

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