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Yellowstone

Yellowstone networks at WAR! Kevin Costner show is hit with new drama as Peacock places rival ads while it airs on CBS to get fans to switch services

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Yellowstone is known for creating plenty of drama with its tense storylines, but now that drama is spilling over to the networks distributing the show.

The Kevin Costner–starring show has become a modest hit in reruns for CBS, which began showing the series to traditional television viewers earlier this month.

But NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock has had the streaming rights to the series since it’s first season, and many viewers saw the show there, years before CBS began airing reruns.

Yellowstone is known for creating plenty of drama with its tense storylines, but now that drama is spilling over to the networks distributing the show.

The Kevin Costner–starring show has become a modest hit in reruns for CBS, which began showing the series to traditional television viewers earlier this month.

But NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock has had the streaming rights to the series since it’s first season, and many viewers saw the show there, years before CBS began airing reruns.

Now Peacock has begun airing ads on CBS during its Yellowstone broadcasts to urge fans to log in to the service to watch the show there instead, where they can also see the original show, rather than version edited to appease broadcast television censors.

The direct competition for viewers by rival networks is an unusual development, according to Variety, though it may ultimately still benefit CBS’ parent company Paramount Global.

The latest rerun of Yellowstone reportedly featured two commercials from Peacock that aired during the hour-long show.

‘Peacock has all episodes of Yellowstone,’ the ad announced in large block letters while showing a montage from the Western melodrama.

‘Stream every season now,’ it continued, which seemed to urge new fans to switch to a service where they could satisfy their curiosity with some binge watching, rather than waiting week to week for the reruns to air.

‘This is a declaration of war,’ one of the characters says at the end of the clip to end on a humorous note.

Part of the battle between CBS and Peacock is due to the convoluted distribution history of Yellowstone.

The show’s cable home for its first run has been on the Paramount Network, a cable channel owned by CBS’ parent company.

Paramount has its own streaming service, Paramount+, which houses many of its original programs.

The show originally debuted to modest ratings and lackluster reviews in 2018, and even though the series — which was created by showrunner, director and writer Taylor Sheridan — did well enough to be renewed for a second season, Paramount opted to sell the streaming rights to Peacock in 2020, rather than saving the show for its own streaming service.

It turned out to be a short-sighted decision, as Yellowstone has only increased in popularity with subsequent seasons, allowing Peacock to syphon of some of Paramount’s potential revenue in the form of new subscribers, though Paramount still benefits from the licensing fees that Peacock pays to stream the series.

Poaching: 'Peacock has all episodes of Yellowstone,' the ad announced in large block letters while showing a montage from the Western melodrama. 'Stream every season now,' it continued; still from Yellowstone
Poaching: ‘Peacock has all episodes of Yellowstone,’ the ad announced in large block letters while showing a montage from the Western melodrama. ‘Stream every season now,’ it continued; still from Yellowstone
Convoluted history: Yellowstone first aired on the Paramount Network in 2018, and Peacock bought the streaming rights in 2020. CBS (Paramount's sister network) is now airing edited reruns amid the ongoing actors strike
Convoluted history: Yellowstone first aired on the Paramount Network in 2018, and Peacock bought the streaming rights in 2020. CBS (Paramount’s sister network) is now airing edited reruns amid the ongoing actors strike

Ironically, even though the Peacock ad is an attempt for the streamer to steal viewers from CBS, the broadcast network and its parent company Paramount even make money from the licensing fees for the commercial.

The reruns have also been lucrative for CBS. The network might not have normally put them on the air, but with a dearth of new shows due to the months-long writers strike and the ongoing actors strike, CBS is trying to keep viewers engaged.

And viewers are certainly tuning in. According to Variety, last week’s two-hour block of Yellowstone episodes drew in 6 million viewers, a solid amount for a show that has been around for years.

Years ago, it would have been almost unheard of for a television network to advertise on one of its rivals, which would likely have refused to air the commercial.

The publication notes that HBO was blocked from airing commercials on many of its broadcast network competitors for years, forcing it to rely on print ads, and CBS and NBC even turned down a General Motors ad for Cadillacs because it starred Dennis Franz.

He played a police officer handing out a ticket to a motorist in the video, but he was also starring on ABC’s NYPD Blue at the time, and CBS and NBC were weary of providing even tangential support to the competing police drama.

Back in the mid-2000s, some networks managed to get around the unofficial prohibition on competing ads by bypassing the national networks.

In 2004, CBS bought ad time for its series Without A Trace, but only for reruns airing on other networks. It managed to get the ads to air on NBC during its hit series E.R., but only by selling the ads to local networks to air during their blocks, rather than in the national blocks of advertising.

E.R. and new episodes of Without A Trace aired at the same time, so even though CBS was ostensibly boosting reruns on other networks, it may have helped to get some viewers to turn off E.R. and tune in to CBS for Without A Trace.

NBC put a stop to the ads once learning of them, but it didn’t initially find out since they went through local affiliates.

Interestingly, television networks have become more willing to let competitors buy ad spots in recent years, but streamers are largely refusing to let competitors advertise on their services — even though they may buy advertising blocks with the same competitors that they wouldn’t allow on their services.

Netflix, Max (former HBO Max) and Disney’s services Hulu and Disney+ refuse to air ads from competitor networks, or for shows featured on those networks, executives familiar with their policies told Variety.

Paramount+ is somewhat more flexible, but they note that it only accepts ads from competitors if they already have some sort of business agreement with Paramount, according to a source.

Despite the competition, the multiple ways to watch Yellowstone may still be a boon to Paramount, as advertising dollars from reruns on CBS will offer a dependable amount of revenue, while it can still expect to receive large licensing fees from Peacock.

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