CBS Interactive's Smith: Extending TV's Ad Model to the Web

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Why is CBS throwing in with Comcast’s On Demand Online “authentication” trial?

After all, the broadcaster already offers a bunch of its primetime shows for free to consumers, on its CBS.com and TV.com sites as well as other outlets.

Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, sees “TV Everywhere”-style services boosting the value of the core television advertising business. “The Web has always been an alternative tube. In this particular case, there’s an opportunity to extend the [TV] platform online,” he said in an interview.

He continued, “One of the hugest hurdles we’ll face in TV Everywhere and [Comcast’s] On Demand Online is, right now, a lot of times there are entirely different agencies buying online versus TV.”

Smith cites CBS’s March Madness On Demand as a model for TV Everywhere, noting that for the NCAA basketball tournament coverage this year there was more than 90% overlap of the advertising that appeared in the TV and online broadcasts.

Another point: there’s still a lot of broadcast programming that is not distributed on the Web today. Smith noted that CBS Interactive’s analysis of all online video indicates that 51% of all broadcast shows are available online in a “free” streaming capacity. (Only about 8% of cable networks’ shows are.)

For TV Everywhere’s participants, it will be key “to come together to agree about how this authentication will work,” Smith said. He suggested what will eventually emerge as the mechanism to do this will be an Internet video player — which can live on Fancast, TV.com, Hulu, YouTube or any other site — that lets you sign in once and will “never bother you again.”

“This is easy stuff for us to say, but very difficult to implement,” Smith said.

CBS still isn’t ready to talk about which shows will be in the mix for Comcast’s 5,000-home trial, kicking off this month (see Comcast Swells Web-TV Roster). Smith said it will encompass entertainment and news content. “In terms of content, we’re a little more cagey on that because it’s a little early now,” Smith said. “We’re keeping this as a rolling beta.”

Right now, he added, Comcast “would like exclusive content in the trial, which is simply harder to give.”

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