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CBS planning for significant international streaming growth

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CBS planning for significant international streaming growth

While CBS Corp. has set aggressive goals for its direct-to-consumer-business in the U.S., acting CEO Joe Ianniello also believes significant opportunities lie abroad.

At an investor conference on June 5, Ianniello noted that the accelerated 25 million combined subscriber target for CBS All Access and Showtime by 2022 pertains only to the U.S.

"You should assume we have a team back at CBS analyzing what international looks like in 2023 [and] thereafter," he said. "I think that's where you'll see more and more focus on how that grows."

Western Europe and Latin America are the likely growth targets, behind the beachheads that have already been established in Canada and Australia. Ianniello, however, refrained from providing any launch time frame specifics.

"I want to go fast, but I also want to be prudent," he said. "I don’t want to put deadlines on things that will be artificial."

Asked about how quickly CBS streaming offerings could scale abroad, Ianniello suggested that with content deals rolling off in particular markets, future launches could include a combination of CBS and Showtime content.

"As each year comes, more and more content is freed up and available. And the analysis we will do ... will be, if we put this into the service, how many incremental subs will we get versus the licensing fee we can get and which one's better on a net present value basis for CBS shareholders," he said. "Right now, that decision is probably easy. I think as time goes on, it's going to get a little more complicated."

In the meantime, CBS plans on keeping the production pipeline whirring. Currently, the company has 80 shows in production, up from 35 several years ago, with 30 airing on CBS, 14 for Showtime and 11 on CBS All Access. The balance offers opportunities to maximize revenue in the content marketplace. Ianniello said peak content is in the "very early innings" and there is a growing appetite for content.

"As long as we continue to see proof points and we're driving subscribers, which in turns drives revenue, we're going to continue to [feed] the pipeline."

On the syndicated front, Ianniello said it has over 800 episodes it has yet to license, including comedy "Man With a Plan" that airs on CBS and "Ray Donovan," the long-running Showtime drama.

"The syndication marketplace is certainly shifting as some of our peers are pulling back their content. We're saying we're open, we're going to be thoughtful," he said, explaining that the company looks "franchise by franchise to maximize the value."

Ianniello also believes CBS will retain National Football League rights after the TV partners' current contracts expire following the 2023 season, noting the league prioritizes reach and its core audience is broadcast based.

"We’ll be partners for a long time." he said.

Neither reports regarding a possible Viacom Inc. recombination with CBS Corp. nor the company's potential interest in acquiring Starz were specifically addressed during the session.