Technology

CBS Jumps on the Broadband Wagon


What's a good way for a TV network to get younger in a hurry? How about launching a new broadband channel? That's one of the key reasons behind the May 4 announcement that CBS (CBS) had started innertube. The online channel will air a combination of content made specifically for the Web, shows linked to the network's hotter programs, and a smattering of shows that didn't make the broadcast cut.

The announcement, the latest in a flurry of broadcast-network forays onto the Net, comes on the heels of CBS's spectacular success in streaming games from its Final Four college basketball championship broadcasts (see BW Online, 3/30/06, "CBS's Slam Dunk on the Web"). CBS execs say 5 million folks logged on and downloaded some 20 million video streams of roundball action.

The advertiser-supported innertube doesn't go as far yet as ABC.com, which streams hit shows such as Lost and Desperate Housewives on its site -- along with advertising. According to CBS Entertainment President Nancy Tellem, the CBS site may eventually offer some of its top-rated programs, thought she didn't specify which ones might go online. Tellem says none of CBS's current shows will appear on innertube until the network reaches an agreement with its network affiliates.

HEAVILY PLUGGED. For now, innertube will offer Love Monkey, which had a brief run on the network, as well as the made-for-the-Net Greek to Chic, a college-based makeover reality series, and a comedy sketch show about celebrities called Animate This.

Tellem also hasn't ruled out streaming vintage CBS shows like I Love Lucy and The Brady Bunch -- a strategy like that launched by Warner Bros. with sister company AOL (TWX). However, CBS still needs to iron out deals for older shows, many of which are currently promised to cable and other TV outlets.

So how many folks are likely to log onto innertube to stream either shows that flopped on CBS or shorter-form programs made for the Web? CBS, which didn't offer any estimates, says it anticipates promoting innertube heavily on the network, which averages an industry-best 12.7 million viewers each night. And CBS will look to migrate folks from its other Internet sites, which all told grab some 30 million visitors a month.

AD SALES. The real payoff for CBS won't necessarily be in sheer numbers, but in a younger demographic. Innertube will likely attract an audience that skews younger than the one the network currently draws. The median age for a CBS viewer is almost 52 -- the highest among the broadcast networks. The 18-49 demographic is considered the most desirable by advertisers. "We want our content to be in all places where consumers are, and they're certainly on the Internet," says Tellem, adding that the network also "hopes to build a new younger audience for some of our shows."

CBS already has advertisers lined up. Among those who have signed on are Cadbury Schweppes (CSG), Chili's, Pier 1 Imports (PIR), and Verizon (VZ) SuperPages.com. Like CBS, they're also on the hunt for young, Net-savvy folks.


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