Earlier this week, CBS head Les Moonves repeated his annual threat to charge cable ops cash for retrans. So we were a little surprised to see the broadcaster announce Thurs that it’s nixing the 99-cent fee for VOD eps of its hit shows in Comcast markets served by CBS owned & operated stations and will offer them at no charge in every Comcast VOD market. Then we remembered what our mama always told us—nothing’s ever free. The VOD programming will include paid commercial spots sold by CBS. Previously, Comcast retained the same spots shown on network TV for VOD. Now, CBS will sell advertising specifically for VOD. It should be an interesting test for VOD advertising as Comcast subs will still be able to fast-forward through spots. The shift all harkens back to CBS’ decision last season to stream the majority of NCAA Div I basketball games for free, which ended up a better business model than charging for them. “Early results show that viewers are responding to programming being made available on emerging platforms for free, supported by advertising,” Moonves said. Eight CBS series will be available on VOD: “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “CSI: NY,” “Survivor,” “NCIS,” “Numb3rs,” “Jericho” and “Big Brother.” Shows will be available on VOD the day after their network airing and remain available for 4 weeks.

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