April 12, 2007 / 5:22 PM / 12 years ago

CBS enters deals for new Web program network

NEW YORK (Reuters) - CBS Corp. said on Thursday it has created a broad Internet distribution vehicle for its popular programs through deals with 10 partners, including Time Warner Inc.’s AOL, Microsoft Corp.’s MSN and Comcast Corp.

Anthony E. Zuiker, executive producer of the CSI television show, speaks in Las Vegas, Nevada January 9, 2007. CBS Corp. said on Thursday it has created a broad Internet distribution channel for its popular television programs, including CSI, through deals with 10 partners, including Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Comcast Corp. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

With the deals, CBS will deliver such shows as crime drama “CSI,” “Late Show with David Letterman,” “Survivor” and “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric” to a broader Web audience. Hundreds of hours of programming from its video library will also be made available.

Partners in the CBS Interactive Audience Network include other Internet video services including CNET Networks Inc. , Joost, Sling Media, Veoh and Brightcove as well as social network Bebo and personal Web portal Netvibes. Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We don’t want to be exclusive with anybody, because nobody should expect a content company to be,” CBS Interactive President Quincy Smith told Reuters. “I don’t think the world needs another portal.”

Viewers can watch the programs for free, with advertising revenue shared between CBS and its partners. CBS would not give details of the revenue split, although similar industry deals favor the content owner.

The CBS interactive network is the latest effort by a leading media company to gather a larger Internet audience for their programs and sell advertising for the shows online.

Last month, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and NBC Universal said they would team up on a new online video venture to challenge the popularity of Google Inc.’s video- sharing site YouTube.

CBS is also in talks with the News Corp-NBC venture for distributing its shows, along with many other players in the growing new market for digital distribution, Smith said.

The company has in the past signed deals with Yahoo Inc., YouTube and Apple Inc.’s iTunes download service, as well as mobile phone operators AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint.

VIDEO STRATEGY

Media companies have pursued various strategies to counter YouTube’s explosive growth and capitalize on a surge of advertising dollars online

Viacom Inc. , which like CBS is controlled by Sumner Redstone, is suing Google and YouTube for $1 billion over illegal use of its entertainment online.

Viacom’s MTV Networks has said it plans to build on its network of nearly 150 Web sites worldwide and create thousands more Internet sites where viewers can watch, contribute and even reedit its television shows.

CBS’s new Web network will have a dedicated team to sell ads and to help determine how to best place a show with its partners to draw audiences.

“The object of the game is to bring it to the audience,” Smith said, rather than expect viewers to look for programming according to the traditional television model.

Akamai Technologies Inc. will provide the technology to deliver programming across the CBS Interactive Audience Network. In some cases, programming will be available on a dedicated media player inside a Web site.

CBS Class B shares rose 43 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $31.42 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Additional reporting by Paritosh Bansal

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