Desperation drives CBS into hands of syndication partners?
CBS, the television network has decided to take a different route from the other networks in disseminating its multimedia content by taking the path of doing syndication deals all over the place. According to a WSJ report (soon-to-go-behind-pay-wall link), the move was necessitated by what the company’s Internet strategist jokingly calls, “CBS.com/nobodycomeshere,” to describe its earlier product – Innertube – that allowed users to watch the videos only on CBS.com.
CBS is working on agreements with social-networking sites such as Facebook Inc. and Last.fm Ltd. to allow users to post CBS video clips to their profiles, according to people familiar with the matter.
It is an interesting way to go about trying to widen your audience, but the path being taken is not without danger. According to the article, the company aims to monetize the clips by showing ads in the clips, which raises an interesting question: why would Facebook allow CBS to control ad inventory for clips shown on its website?
Apparently, they are doing a deal with Joost and the Facebook deal could also be on the same lines – standard revenue share with the advertisements being inserted by syndication clients. It is very much possible that the WSJ reporter, Brooks Barnes, got it wrong when he implied that the ads would be controlled by CBS, which is precisely what got Photobucket into a lot of trouble with Myspace before they kissed and made up and eventually ended up in bed together.
Syndication is not a panacea for your low traffic woes and it is understandable that CBS is getting a bit desperate for an increased uptake of its videos. CBSNews.com was one of the early pioneers of promoting its video content online, but for some reason it has not taken off or done much for its traffic. If CBS hosts the videos, syndicating it would increase its bandwidth expenses, while not giving it the best of advertising revenues and in all honesty video advertising is still a bit of an unknown quantity.
If the syndication clients host the clips, then CBS won’t have much control over the advertising and revenue share deals always leave you with a bit of an aftertaste in your mouth as it eventually ends up kicking you where it hurts the most for your content producers: the loss of exclusivity and the erosion in the premium you can command based on that.
Maybe the reasons are as simple as what the CBS Interactive president said: “We can’t expect consumers to come to us, it’s arrogant for any media company to assume that.” The problem is not as much that viewers are not coming to websites with multimedia content that is hosted within the website. The network’s competitors have a much better deal in terms of traffic (Foxnews: 528 on Alexa, CNN: 61 on Alexa), while CBSNews.com lags way behind at rank 2099 on Alexa and the CBS.com domain does a more respectable rank of 1861.
It looks more like a CBS-specifc problem of users not coming to their website. Guess there is nothing like taking a path-breaking approach to fixing your problems when you don’t have much to lose in the first place.
p.s: Fox.com has a much lower ranking at 1823, but FIM also owns Myspace and a host of other high-traffic websites now, enabling them to flog their video wherever they please without having to worry about revenue shares or getting the right degree or reach or leverage.