Tuesday, May 15, 2007

CBS Tries Another Online Strategy

Monday's Wall Street Journal carried an article discussing CBS's abandonment of its proprietary website for video content. I last wrote about this topic here, in February. That post referenced my earlier piece, here, in October of last year, wherein I discussed Comcast's attempt to become the megaportal of the web for video.

While a worthwhile article to read in its entirety, here are some salient passages from the Journal piece,

A year ago,
CBS Corp. announced the creation of Innertube, an entertainment channel on CBS.com designed to make the company a player in online video. It streams video of sporting events, news reports and reruns of shows such as the hit comedy "How I Met Your Mother."
CBS's new chief Internet strategist now jokes that the Web address for Innertube should be "CBS.com/nobodycomeshere."

CBS, after a year of experimenting with various Web initiatives, says that forcing consumers to come to one site -- its own -- to view video hasn't worked. Instead, the company plans to pursue a drastically revised strategy that involves syndicating its entertainment, news and sports video to as much of the Web as possible. It represents a stark departure for the TV industry. Most of CBS's major competitors, including
Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal and News Corp.'s Fox, are to some degree all betting that they can build their own Internet video portals.

"We can't expect consumers to come to us," says Quincy Smith, the president of CBS Interactive. "It's arrogant for any media company to assume that."

Joanne Bradford, chief media officer of MSN, says advertisers would be served better by buying online ads directly from Web sites rather than buying Internet packages offered alongside their upfront TV deals with the networks. "I'm a little irritated that the networks have put together a digital package that lets a marketer check a box and isn't as robust or deep," she said at a conference last week for advertisers in Seattle.

Advertisers will ultimately decide if CBS's new strategy is the right one. So far, media buyers are positive about the move, although they note that CBS has had troubles implementing some heavily promoted digital efforts in the past. CBS has already signed up major advertisers for its digital network such as
Procter & Gamble Co., General Motors Co. and AT&T Corp.'s Cingular Wireless.

I take two messages away from the CBS experience. The first is a reinforcement of my original prediction that it will be unwise for anyone to plan to create and run the single, most-important media site on the web. YouTube happened more or less by accident. It is similar to EBay in that it hosts the work of others, but does not, per se, create content.

This is why I think Comcast is going to fail in its expensive quest to create a web media hub that is the ne plus ultra of the 'net.

The second message I note is how much what is old is new again. New technology, new empowerment of consumers with respect to what to watch, when, and how. Yet, advertising is still going to pay for all of that convenience.

Funny how that ad model keeps recurring for 80 years now, isn't it? It's followed media advancement from radio in the 1920s all the way to multi-media web video in a new century.

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