CNN.com’s Pushing Out Free Video

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Ten years after it became an Internet-content pioneer, CNN.com is announcing plans for a new broadband service that will include free video content as well as premium features.

Starting June 20, Cable News Network’s Web site (www.cnn.com) will make free video available to the 35 million plus broadband subscribers in the U.S., with premium products scheduled for rollout this fall.

Until March 2002, CNN.com offered free video, but increasing bandwidth costs drove the company to create a subscription package. That package became available as a standalone service through CNN.com and through RealNetworks Inc.’s “RealPass” service, which serves several hundred thousand subscribers.

With today’s announcement, much of that RealPass content, plus other video, will be available for free, with the premium products being developed for the fall likely to head Real’s way.

“We’re changing our model and changing the way we distribute video,” said Susan Grant, executive vice president of CNN News Services.

The new CNN.com home page will prominently feature video, as well as section fronts, story pages and special report areas.

Video will appear across all topic areas — politics, world news, business, sports, entertainment and science and technology. The site will include a specially designed video player, using Windows Media 9, that will enable users to search and organize videos based on their tastes.

The CNN.com staff also will produce a two-minute “Now in the News” newscast each hour.

The premium product coming this fall will include multiple live streams, access to CNN’s video archives and user-customized options.

Several economic trends are aiding the move back to free video, Grant said. Bandwidth and encoding costs have dropped, making it easier to create and ship large amounts of video. CNN will likely post dozens and dozens of video clips each day.

Advertising also will be sold before and after the video segments, she said. CNN.com ad executives participated with their linear network brethren during this spring’s upfront ad sales season. “This is a new opportunity for advertisers to get a mass reach consumer product,” she said, as the site averages 23 million unique visitors each month.

“We produce our Web site like we produce our TV product, with the most important intriguing stories of the day,” she said. “We want to tell story the best way possible,” she said, and stories that cry out for video will get that treatment.

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