The great unbundling begins: CBS next to offer online subscription for cord cutters

Want to watch CSI live, but don’t want to pay for cable? Now you got another way to do so, thanks to a new online subscription service called CBS All Access. The service, which CBS launched Thursday, offers users a live stream of CBS programming, next-day access to current shows on mobile devices, and a deeper catalog of past shows and classics from the broadcast network, all for $5.99 a month.

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There are some important limits to CBS All Access: Live streams are currently limited to 14 markets, including big metropolitan areas like Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. And some sports events, including NFL games, will be blacked out.

But even with those caveats, CBS All Access is a bold step for the network, which traditionally has been more hesitant to embrace online distribution. CBS didn’t join its big broadcast competitors ABC, NBC and FOX when they came together to found Hulu, and its own catch-up service,, never really got off the ground. And as Peter Kafka over at Recode pointed out, CBS’s audience skews older than that of many other networks.

The timing of the announcement is interesting as well: On Wednesday, HBO surprised many by saying that it will offer a standalone HBO online service next year. With CBS now joining the unbundling crowd, which network is going to be next?