CBS has broken its standoff with Hulu by providing some shows to the video site's service in Japan. But don't expect that to mean a thaw with Hulu in the U.S., where CBS wants big-money rights fees to distribute content online.
At today's Ad Age Digital West conference, CBS Interactive President Jim Lanzone said teaming up with the online TV site would only serve to damage the CBS brand in U.S.
"The notion of joining up and subjugating your brand to theirs" just doesn't make sense for CBS, he said, pointing to decreased traffic to ABC.com after that network joined Hulu.
CBS did recently partner with Hulu to stream past seasons of shows such as "CSI" as well as old series such as "Star Trek" and "Twin Peaks" on Hulu's new subscription-only service in Japan. But here in the U.S., Lanzone said CBS Interactive is "tripling down on video" on its own sites, which include CBS.com, CBSNews.com, CNET, CBSSports.com and Clicker.com.
CBS.com broke its prior records yesterday with 1.8 million video viewers and 600,000 referrals from social networks, Mr. Lanzone said, as a result of the premiere of the new "Two and a Half Men" starring Ashton Kutcher. There are also talks going on around getting Mr. Kutcher's Katalyst Media involved with CBS Interactive, Mr. Lanzone said.
Mr. Lanzone was previously co-founder and CEO of Clicker.com, the internet TV guide that CBS acquired earlier this year. He said he hopes to bring a bit of a startup atmosphere to the network giant's interactive unit.
"We're going to throw teams in the basement -- a product guy and three developers -- and make them work their way up," he said.
Lanzone also said he would look for opportunities to incubate startups using the brand's expansive URL library. "I could sell that for tens of millions of dollars," he said.
As for CNET, the 17-year-old technology site that has been eclipsed in cachet over the last few years by blogs such as TechCrunch, Lanzone said its massive reviews and downloads businesses gives it a diverse business model that competitors don't enjoy. Still, he admitted that the site needed a bit more buzz, saying a new design and a push to build the personal brands of the site's top journalists can help.
"The user base is No. 1 by far in tech journalism," he said. "Add a little bit of sizzle to that and we'll be off to the races."