Interview, Part 1: Quincy Smith, President, CBS Interactive: ‘Innertube Just Became OuterTube’

The CBC Interactive Audience Network moved from idea to execution — at least, announcements — in the span of 8 days or so, according to Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive and the guy at the center of the storm. (No telling how long some of these deals have been in the works.) But, during an interview today, he admitted freely that the ground already was broken by the NBCU-News Corp. JV and that this couldn’t have happened as quickly without it: “Full tribute and credit to the JV for all of their good work in bushwhacking.” It blazed the way, he added: “It got out there and established economics that seemed appropriate for the content versus online distribution for now.” He also doesn’t claim to be doing anything new or original. In fact, Smith says he hopes every media company follows suit. What follows is part one of some edited excerpts:

Why go this route?: “If you’re a content company the opportunity of online is to be closer than ever to your audience. You want to find as many leading distribution platforms as you can to get your content there. I don’t think the world needs another portal and clearly, all of the partners we’ve announced — and hopefully some soon to come — represent having done much better jobs than CBS at creating video delivery platforms.”

What does this do to CBS broadband site Innertube?: Smith: “Innertube just became Outertube. It’s basically Innertube on steroids. Anything that’s available on Innertube now gets actually pushed to people with real eyeballs. The people that matter: audience and advertisers. Advertisers deserve mass out of CBS, the largest television network on the planet and we should second that with online mass.” He offered as a scenario taking a Monday night comedy, then creating an audience for it that’s bigger than the Super Bowl by Friday. Smith: “This is a real chance to make numbers matter and at CBS that is what moves needles.” Along those lines, CBS is working on ways to improve research and online metrics reporting. “It’s not only a luxury. It’s something we all have to understand because we’re not competing against each other. Don’t make this a JV versus us — we’re competing with lonelygirl … we’re also sharing with lonelygirl because that’s the webby thing to do.”

More for the same audience or growing audience?: Smith: “As you do know, CBS’s traditional demographics remain and skew relatively older so any progress we make online is reasonably additive.” Also, CBS Corp. is 90 percent U.S. based; most of the partners are 70-plus percent international. “There’s a whole new world for CBS.”

Rights: CBS owns most of the shows being licensed — “that’s the beauty of being a big, dumb media company” — but sports rights are a different matter. For instance, the NCAA mens basketball could be on air, online and on mobile but the Masters’ was only on air and online — and only part of it was online. As Smith points out, the NFL is guarding its online rights. “We hope by announcing distribution deals like this we can help to make sure that the leagues are exposed to the audience online if they choose to work it so the rights come with us they can piggyback all day long — or maybe it just incents them to go direct as well.” They’re working to clear additional rights to put more content in the rotation.

Moving beyond experimental: CBS still makes some experimental deals — SecondLife and the like — but Smith says these aren’t among them. “This is more than just trying things … this is about making a forward statement towards the audience as well as getting paid for that. .. We are definitely moving beyond the experiment. We need to be paid for our content and we need to have eyeballs watch it.”

Autoplay: When I brought up autoplay as a way of piling up streams, Smith quickly replied: “That’s a cheap shot. We don’t do it. … Half of that is the decision of the content provider. … In my opinion, to open something and have it directly stream in your face and then count as a stream is a cheap shot.”
Continue in Part Two.