A day after HBO declared its intention to go straight to viewers with an online streaming service, CBS Thursday morning announced its own streaming initiative, called "CBS All Access."
It's live now, and will cost 6 bucks a month -- but CBS is offering a free one-week trial now. By the way, this is not commercial-free (none of the streaming services are, save Netflix and a few others). But ... the "library" of older classic series will not have ads.
A big deal? Sure: CBS is commercial broadcast TV's most viewed network, and to break free of the 75-plus-year-old network/affiliate system with this streaming option is just another hammer blow on an technological arrangement ("network TV") that looks older -- and grayer -- by the minute.
CBS All Access, for example, will allow you to watch CBS stations live in New York. (ABC has had something similar for a couple of years now.)
The other networks with their co-ownership arrangements vis-a-vis Hulu, and their own reasonably robust websites also offer day-after viewing for many (certainly not all) series. They have also seen considerable growth, tailored naturally to a mobile population that increasingly lives with an iPad or Android tablet stuck to its nose.
This is important -- vitally important -- for CBS these days because it is selling commercials based not just on "live" viewing, but on playback ratings too.
What's special -- as best I can tell -- with CBS All Access is just how vast it is:
--that live stream;
--15 primetime series the day after (that's significant, in fact, considering that Warner Bros. has long kept some of its popular series from day-after playback on many websites);
--and more than 5,000 episodes of what the network is calling "CBS Classics," which (best I can tell) aren't simply great old CBS shows, but all sorts of classics, including "Twin Peaks" and "Star Trek."
There is, simply put, enough content here -- or at least the promise of enough content -- to keep tube heads happily diverted for years. Yes, I did ask about the other platforms where CBS series are now available -- you can name the list, and it's extensive, including CBS.com -- and I am told Access is simply "additive." Those sources will continue unaffected.