Exclusive: CBS All Access to begin piloting shows, eyes comedy and docs expansion

CBS All Access will expand from its straight-to-series model later this year, with plans in place to begin piloting content for the first time, TBI can reveal.

Julie McNamara, EVP of original content for the US broadcaster’s five-year-old streaming service, tells TBI that the business is “looking at unscripted and looking at building out comedy to a greater extent” – a move that will build on the success of sole comedy offering No Activity, a US adaptation of the hit Australian original from Fairfax Media-owned SVOD Stan.

“We are looking at all of it and trying to build it out in the best possible way to attract the most people. We are entertaining those projects and have some things in development in all those areas.”

The exec says expanding into new genres, such as entertainment and comedy, means it will explore pilots for the first time.

“We’ve been a straight-to-series model till this point but it’s likely that we will be trying some things out within these areas.”

The business is also interested in exploring more documentaries, says the exec.

Last year, CBS All Access gave six straight-to-series orders, including greenlights for Why Women Kill, Strange Angel, a Star Trek spin-off on Jean-Luc Picard, Tell Me A Story, Interrogation and One Dollar, although the latter series was cancelled in December.

CBS All Access is one of the first SVOD plays to have emerged from a US broadcaster. Alongside Showtime’s OTT app, the platform smashed its objective of reaching 8m subscribers by 2020 two years ahead of schedule, and now has a goal of reaching 25m by 2022.

The service first dipped its toes into originals three years ago with the wildly popular Star Trek: Discovery – a strategy that has paid off, with a number of spin-offs, including a highly anticipated Patrick Stewart-fronted Captain Picard series.

However, McNamara, who was later speaking as part of a panel at INTV, said the business doesn’t want to “burn the franchise out” and will do a combination of programming going forward.

Star Trek has very dedicated and also very opinionated fans, which makes making a show for them very interesting,” she said.

“On the other hand, if you become a service that is only known for reboots, you’re not [playing in] a premium space anymore.”

The exec said the business is capable of having Star Trek shows and Jordan Peele’s upcoming Twilight Zone reboot sit alongside other programmes that are “truly original”.

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