Blog Post

@ EconAffinity: CBS’ McManus: We Will Not Sacrifice TV Revenue For More Online Viewing

imageDon’t expect to be able to watch the Super Bowl live online anytime soon, Sean McManus, president, CBS (NYSE: CBS) News & Sports, told Staci D. Kramer, EVP and Co-Editor of paidContent parent ContentNext in the opening panel of the company’s EconAffinity conference. CBS, which has the rights to the Super Bowl in 2013, is “looking at possible ways of using the internet to augment the audience, as we’ve done with fantasy football,” McManus said. “They’ll watch the live product and use the site. We’re not going to do anything to sacrifice the revenue opportunity of the Super Bowl on TV, such as live streaming.”

There’s a big difference in how viewers want to experience the game, especially when it comes to age. And that makes it a particular challenge in how to focus the online offerings. “It depends on what audience you’re talking about. Most watch in a passive way. The only interaction they want is with their hand on their beer and on the other hand feeding them. We spend a lot of time on our pre-game audience, we try to flood the screen for the younger viewer, but not trying to annoy the older fan that doesn’t want their screen cluttered.”

For example, CBS Sports high school site Max Preps can take a large audience on a Saturday afternoon and build interest in the TV programing around chats. “You can put 10 college football fans in a room and come up with different apps of how to watch and interact football. The challenge is developing those tools in an organized way and in a way that will produce revenue.”

March Madness and online revs: NCAA revenue went up 30 percent, $32 million in revenue — and almost 10 million hours viewed. We started doing it four years ago free and it drew about $5 million in revenue. There are very few products that show that kind of growth on the internet. Kramer noted that the audience seems to disappear between events, even though CBS Sports has increased interactive opportunities and outreach; for instance, YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) allowed Microsoft’s Silverlight March Madness player to be embedded — the first time the Google-owned video channel had done that. “The traffic on has continued to grow and we’ve delivered consistently rising audience.” Later, McManus was asked if fantasy football brought in as much money as the March Madness web offerings. “I’m not going to get trapped into revealing more revenues. But it brings in a lot of money. All the online properties on CBS make money.”

Live on CBS News: In a deal with uStream announced today, CBS News, which already will offer more live streaming on its affiliated sites. “When I first got my job in news 3 years ago, the goal was to protect our exclusivity. We kept everything in-house. But we and all the other networks have realized that’s not the way to reach a wider audience. But until we figure out how to run commercials around that, it’s a losing proposition.” (BI has details about the deal.)

Making crime pay: McManus revealed that 48 Hours is launching a new site for people passionately interested in crime following an idea from executive producer Susan Zirinsky, who asked why shouldn’t there be the definitive crime-site? Chilling 911 calls, bloggers will cover grisly murders. “Apparently, there’s a lot of people who can’t get enough of crime. And it will be a great adjunct to the show. Susan Zirinsky knows that being a producer isn’t just about a TV show. It has to encompass the web on its own terms.”

Katie Couric’s brand: The news anchor’s personality and connectedness via her blog or on Twitter is part of the reasons her popularity has risen in the past year, Kramer noted. “Whether it’s her interest in finding a cure for cancer, or children in poverty, there’s not enough of her to get into a half-hour broadcast,” McManus said.