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In remarks before the digital media buyers and sellers attending the iMedia Summit at a desert resort here, the CBS news chief admitted that all three network newscasts are "uncannily similar" and that "I'm not proud of it."
Mr. Heyward, the founding producer of the network's 48 Hours newsmagazine, said he recognized that differentiation should be the driving force in TV but that the only major news player to actually achieve that was Fox News. He said that while pundits can disagree with Fox's overtly conservative political overtones, the cable network has developed a niche and a refreshingly differentiated point of view within an otherwise homogeneous news landscape.
Mr. Heyward, who became a news producer in New York City in 1981 when the networks held sway, said he has witnessed the steady erosion of network news' influence. "CNN turned network news into a commodity and changed the business forever," he said.
To an audience of believers, he praised the strengths of emerging digital technologies that allow for on-demand and customized news and entertainment delivery and noted that CBS is exploring ways to work with Viacom networks including BET, MTV and others to package CBS News content for various audience segments.
While he said CBS intended to "aggregate audiences and give them a news-on-demand experience," he argued that existing Web news sites are no substitute for a full TV experience. He advocated further development of simultaneous TV and Internet viewing in a new era of broadband service.
Currently, CBS offers free video on its CBSNews.com Web site and has no plans to introduce a paid, subscription service. "We see the free video as a traffic builder," he said.