Desperate Networks, Part 1

Burt Helm

News flash: Television networks stink at distribution. They've had it too easy, too long, with cable and their large existing network of broadcast affiliates. Internet distribution -- hey, just put up a website -- seemed simple enough. It's not. For every YouTube there's a dozen video sites you have never ever heard of.

Finally at least one TV network has realized this. Today's WSJ reports CBS's decision to syndicate its programming across up to 10 different video sites, from AOL to a handful of YouTube wannabes. Similar to traditional syndication deals, CBS will sell the ads and give a cut of the revenues.

I think we're warming up to where mainstream video should be online: The big media companies continue to sell the ads in their posh midtown offices like always. Then they push the content out everywhere and anywhere, letting GoogTube, MSN, Yahoo be the Comcasts and the Cablevisions. To do this right, they'll need to cut a deal with Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo that lets them harness the fast-improving targeting technology those companies are spending so much money on. That could be tough, if we draw anything from MSN exec Joanne Bradford's snippy comment in the Journal story today. I think it's worth a try.

Upfront presentations are kicking off this week (the headline is a nod to the great title of Bill Carter's book). I'll have more updates soon.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.