CBS TO OUTSOURCE WEB AD SALES

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CBS, looking past its own massive sales force, is searching for an outside rep company to handle ad sales for its World Wide Web site.

The network wants to bring on a team to pitch CBS-owned content such as news and sports to marketers. The reps would operate separately from network sales people and sell the Web site as a stand-alone medium.

The move is emblematic of a growing trend in Web advertising. With more marketers setting aside funds to promote their Web sites, specialized rep companies are springing up to steer those budgets to other sites that take advertising.

`AN UNDERSTANDING'

"You have to have an understanding for [the Web]," said Gayle Close, CBS director of new media. "It's different than broadcast sales."

CBS already gives advertisers presence on the site (http://www.cbs.com) as added value for TV buys, a practice Ms. Close said will continue on the network sales side.

CBS is listening to pitches from four rep companies, including Interactive Connection, Los Angeles, and Petry Interactive, New York. A decision is expected next month.

SLOWING THE PROCESS

The network's efforts could be slowed by the departure of its top new-media executive. Mark Harrington, senior VP-new media, last week was named VP-general manager of MSNBC, the cable news channel being jointly developed by NBC and Microsoft Corp. A replacement hasn't been named.

NBC is also farming out much of its Web site rep work and is currently reviewing companies to handle a site at http://www.intelli offering weather information. It also will tap an outside sales force for an Olympics-related site, executives said.

NBC and the National Football League contracted with Interactive Media Sales, Hermosa Beach, Calif., for a Super Bowl Web site.

ABC, FOX PLANS

ABC and Fox have no plans to hire an outside sales force, said executives at the two networks. ABC last year formed a unit called ABC New Media Sales that represents a variety of properties both on and off the Web.

Fox, meanwhile, has tapped Laura Nathanson as VP-interactive sales.

Other Web sites using outside rep companies include Playboy, Netscape Communications Corp. and Yahoo. AT&T's Downtown Digital will tap an external sales force, and Microsoft Network is said to have explored that option.

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