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CBS (NYSE: CBS) has taken what Jim Lanzone, president of CBS Interactive, calls “a pragmatic path” in terms of distributing streamed videos of its programming and library. In a conversation with our Staci D. Kramer at paidContent Entertainment ’11, Lanzone told those who have been waiting to see larger availability of CBS shows on Hulu, Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) and others, there won’t be a change thus far. In essence, it can be boiled down to: if you want to run CBS programming online, you’ll have to pay a lot for it.
Lanzone arrived at CBS Interactive in March, when the network acquired his startup Clicker, which defined itself as a “TV Guide” for online video.
Clicker is at its heart a search engine, and with most people satisfied with what Google offers, why did Lanzone see a need for such a site?
“TV was moving online, and there was tremendous growth in the number of original online videos being created and distributed,” Lanzone said. “But unlike TV, online video wasn’t about when they were on, but where. My sense was that the remote control of the future was a search engine, and it needed to be a highly structured one around video choices.”
Lanzone ended up selling it to CBS 14 months after creating it. In terms of moving himself and Clicker to CBS, he said, “I’m a product guy and I love the opportunity to run websites.”
CBS already had its own site for discovering videos, TV.com. Lanzone talked about greater integration between Clicker and TV.com. “TV.com, when it was created in 2008, historically was the leading community site to talk about TV information,” Lanzone said. “Then it became a place to watch video, but it wasn’t clearly defined. That’s changing.”
While TV.com brings outside shows and clips under the CBS Audience Network umbrella, CBS.com is the main hub for the broadcaster’s programming. And Lanzone said that the network still doesn’t see a need to see that mimic anywhere else. “We do not believe in competing against ourselves,” he said. “But we’re not closed off either. Not only do we post videos on CBS.com, it’s the modern equivalent of Channel 2 on the web. We do a lot of syndication through the CBS Audience Network. But we’re not going to be acquiring other people’s shows.”
In terms of Hulu, online video viewers in Tokyo can watch older CBS shows thanks to a deal that was struck two months ago. Lanzone gave no indication that a similar deal for the U.S. was in the works. “Our strategy is to own, operate and monetize ourselves,” he said, “and I think (CBS Corp. CEO) Les Moonves has been very smart about that.”