By Kenneth Li and Michele GershbergTue Nov 22, 2:36 PM ET
U.S. television network CBS is in discussions with Internet media
company Google Inc. for video search and on-demand video, CBS chairman
Leslie Moonves said on Tuesday.
Viacom-owned CBS, which is in the process of splitting itself apart
from the faster growing MTV cable networks and Paramount film studios,
is seeking other distribution outlets for its top ranked shows
including the CSI franchise.
"We're talking to them about a whole slew of things including
video-on-demand, including video search," Moonves told Reuters in an
interview regarding Google, ahead of Reuters's Media and Advertising
Summit next week.
Such talks are occurring across the media industry at a time when
entertainment companies are wary of new technologies like the Internet
and video games that appear to siphon off consumers of traditional
Moonves, however, said he saw more opportunities on the Internet to
boost CBS's reach and bottom line.
CBS's discussions have not been restricted to Google and have also
included talks with Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news), although no deals
have yet been struck.
"They need our content, we need their technology," he said, referring
to broader discussions with Internet companies. "We argue about which
is more important. I think ultimately my content, no matter how you
get it, content is still the most important thing."
In September, Viacom's UPN television network struck a deal with
Google to offer exclusive video streams of its "Everybody Hates Chris"
comedy show. The premier show was offered for four days at Google
Google is just one of a handful of big Internet companies that seek to
offer video programming on the Web. Yahoo is seeking to license more
video for its service.
But finding a way for media and Internet companies to work together
has not been without snafus. Shortly after Google debuted its video
search in June, copyrighted videos from random users crept onto the
service, drawing the ire of the very media companies Google aimed to
Google removed the videos after a few days.
Then there's digital video recording technology company TiVo Inc.,
whose early plans to let some of its customers send recorded videos
directly to Apple Computer Inc.'s new iPod digital media player could
set the stage for the next copyright fight.
"There's some intellectual property questions about the situation,"
Moonves said about TiVo's plans.
What's certain is big media needs to offer legitimate
alternatives. "Video on the Internet is taking off like mad," said
Josh Bernoff, an analyst at Forrester Research, which has reported
that about 46 percent of online households were already watching
Eyeing how the music industry's slow reaction to new technology
ravaged sales, U.S. television networks have been busier experimenting
online, Moonves said.
"They'd be better off moving as quickly as possible to embrace these
technologies," Bernoff added about television networks.
MORE VOD WITH LES
More shows are expected to be offered to cable, satellite television
and wireless services as well, Moonves said.
CBS announced a one-year deal to let Comcast Corp. cable customers
view episodes of some of its shows at the click of their remote for 99
cents earlier this month.
Moonves, who is also co-chief operating officer of Viacom, said the
company was in talks with satellite television operator DirecTV Group
Inc. for similar deals, although he did not specify when, or if, any
deal would be struck.
"We've spoken with DirecTV, sure," he said. "I think you'll see more
and more of those deals happening along the way, as well as you'll see
more and more deals like ABC did with the iPod."
Although Moonves did not address discussions with Apple's iTunes
service, which began selling episodes of ABC's "Lost" and "Desperate
Housewives" in October, sources have said the two are in discussions.
Viacom's widely held class b shares rose 3 cents to $33.67 on the New
York Stock Exchange in afternoon trading. Google shares rose $6.03, or
1.47 percent to $415.39 on Nasdaq.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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