By Paul J. Gough
CNN has finally joined the broadband big leagues, lifting the veil on an
extreme makeover of its Web site that has been in the works for more than a
The long-awaited premium broadband service, dubbed Pipeline, went live
December 5 and already has signed up a number of subscribers in its
initial week, though CNN executives decline to cite specifics.
The killer app for Pipeline is four live video streams, which offer
mostly unedited looks at news events throughout the world. These
streams -- or "pipes" -- can be played in a special video player and
chosen by Pipeline's editors in Atlanta.
On Thursday night, Pipeline offered video streams from CNN
International, a memorial service for slain Beatle John Lennon in
Central Park, the House of Representatives and a traffic cam on a
snowy Chicago night. That last pipe turned out to be prescient an hour
later when news broke out from Chicago's Midway Airport when a
Southwest Airlines jet slid off a runway. The third stream became
video live from the scene at WFLD-TV.
A day earlier, when a passenger was shot and killed by federal agents
at the Miami airport, Pipeline offered several live camera angles of
"When the plane shooting happened, we had three different affiliates'
coverage. We had multiple angles on the story; you could select the
one you wanted," said David Payne, senior vp CNN News Services and
general manager of CNN.com. "I think even more intriguing, as that was
happening, there was a bank robbery in Oregon and a rescue in
Georgia." All were represented on the streams.
Payne thinks this is the promise of Pipeline. He said the mostly
anchorless live streams show what the news is. The live coverage of
the plane shooting allowed viewers to see the same feeds that the
network control rooms were viewing at the same time.
"As the story was unfolding for the plane shooting, and it became
clear that that was under control, all these other events were
happening," Payne said. "That really shows the power. On linear
television, you're so limited in what you can do and what you can
show. We have four times the capability."
Live coverage isn't the only hallmark of CNN Pipeline. The video
player offers users the ability to see the top stories in video, get
other news on demand and even browse CNN's vast archives.
But the one thing you won't see: whole programs. Payne doesn't think
that's a good thing, despite what others in the news industry are
doing on their Web sites.
"We think that showing shows, creating specific programing, is not the
right approach. Consumers are pretty loud and clear about that to us,"
Payne said. "Our goal is to let the news take you to wherever it goes
and we're going to go along with it. I don't anticipate creating shows
or linear programing."
Payne doesn't think the $2.95 a month -- or $24.95 a year -- price tag
is a deal-killer, despite the evidence that consumers are generally
still resistant to paying for premium content on the Web.
"There's no question in my mind that there's a $2.95 value that can be
created of an entire month that would enable somebody or cause
somebody to this," Payne said. "I can't even find an analogy to
spending 9 cents a day."
More innovations are coming, predicts Payne, that will go far beyond
the mostly TV-centric news Web sites.
"We can do so much more than a set-top box or rabbit ears on a TV,"
Payne said. "Once you think about your computer as a set-top box, with
all the capability it has and all the advancements it has, I think in
the future what we see on our converging scenes is something that we
can't even dream of."
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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