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CBS CEO hints Amazon spent $9.1M for 'Under the Dome'

Les Moonves suggests Amazon paid $700,000 per episode to his broadcast network for the right to stream the Stephen King sci-fi drama four days after broadcast, a first-of-its-kind deal.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
CBS's "Under the Dome" was a top-rated show during its summer broadcast, in addition to being the focus of a unique streaming deal with Amazon. CBS

NEW YORK -- CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves hinted to investors Tuesday that Amazon paid $700,000 an episode for "Under the Dome," the summer sci-fi series that the online retailer streamed four days after CBS' flagship broadcast network aired the shows.

Speaking at a UBS investor conference, Moonves said flexibility is key to getting the most out of subscription video-on-demand opportunities such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video.

"Who would have guessed that Amazon would make a deal where they show a show four days later and they pay you $700,000 an episode for that right? That's a pretty good thing, that's a pretty good thing for content providers," he said.

With 13 episodes in the first season of "Under the Dome," a sci-fi drama based on a Stephen King novel, that would mean Amazon invested $9.1 million in the program. Amazon didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

The agreement between CBS (the parent company of CNET) and Amazon for "Under the Dome" was one of a kind. CBS was able to make the show with unusually high standards for a summer program -- big special effects, expensive sets, a large cast -- thanks to lucrative licensing deals with Amazon and international markets. For its part, Amazon invested in the show up front in exchange for exclusive rights to stream it through its Prime Instant Video service only four days after each episode broadcast. For CBS, "Under the Dome" was essentially paid for before it ever aired on the network, thanks to the new international and online collaborations, Moonves reiterated Tuesday.

But Amazon, which is notoriously protective of its data, has declined to specify how much it paid for the "Under the Dome" rights. Analysts estimate Amazon has a content budget of roughly $500 million. Its bigger streaming competitor, Netflix, has a $2 billion content budget, by comparison.

Amazon and CBS also renewed their agreement for the second season of "Under the Dome" earlier this year, largely under the same terms. They expanded the model too: Amazon's Lovefilm secured a license to be the only subscription-based service in the UK allowed to stream the serial drama.