Media new and old merge at CBS

CBS President Les Moonves takes the CES stage to declare company's plans for riding the new content-swapping wave.

Erica Ogg Former Staff writer, CNET News
Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.
Erica Ogg
3 min read
LAS VEGAS--Soon, there may be no difference between new and old media.

In a keynote address at CES 2007, CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves said no gap exists between the two anymore--and he gave details of a series of moves the entertainment company is making to embrace the way audiences want to interact with media content.

A theme of this year's CES has been allowing consumers to take content wherever they want. CBS's goal is to form "deeper, more interactive communities" around its content, in sports, radio and television, Moonves said. To do so, CBS is getting very chummy with new media, and Moonves brought up several of his friends, some new, some old, to demonstrate that fact.

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Video: CBS embraces viewers' videos
CEO Leslie Moonves discusses the steps his company has taken to merge old broadcast media with new user-generated content.

"The symbiotic relationship (between online and television content) will only tighten," Moonves said. "What's a big media company like us to do? We're embracing it big time. We're doing just about everything we can to see what's going to work now and in the future." That often means bringing in people outside CBS to do so, he said.

One of those people is Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian, creator of the Slingbox place-shifting technology, who joined the CBS president onstage to unveil Sling's latest technology, called "Clip + Sling." It allows users to clip content from live or recorded TV and share it with anyone, including non-Slingbox owners. The clip can be sent in an e-mail that plays the video from a hosted portal.

To demonstrate clipping and slinging, Krikorian selected a clip of CBS's Two and a Half Men and sent it in an e-mail to Moonves. The CBS chief checked his e-mail onstage and forwarded the clip onto Jon Cryer, star of the sitcom, who, in a prerecorded bit, checked his mail via a mobile handset and grumbled sarcastically about receiving "another funny" e-mail from Moonves.

The software will be loaded into the desktop and mobile versions of SlingPlayer sometime in the second quarter of this year, Krikorian said in an interview prior to Tuesday's keynote. CBS said it will be beta testing the product with one of its shows, which has yet to be determined, also beginning in the second quarter.

Clearly, CBS is hoping Clip + Sling can take advantage the power of the Web to create the same kind of buzz around professionally produced content that video-sharing sites like YouTube have done with user-generated content.

Moonves said content owners like CBS should take heed of the example set by the music industry, which failed to embrace the desire of users to get content on the Internet. Rather than get left behind, he said, CBS is trying to stay at the forefront. He praised Sling Media for having "great consideration for the content owner," in this case, his own company, in bringing its Clip + Sling content to market.

YouTube is another nontraditional media company CBS has embraced. Showing he has a sense of humor about his company and even his personal life, Moonves played for the audience mashups created by YouTube users, based on CBS content posted on the CBS channel created on the video-sharing site in November 2006. Moonves chuckled along with the audience at a reel lampooning the main character of C.S.I.: Miami called "Endless Caruso One Liners," created by a user named stewmurray47. He also showed a mashup reel of his own wife, Julie Chen, host of the CBS show Big Brother, repeatedly using the phrase "but first."

He then introduced Chad Hurley, founder and CEO of YouTube, bragging, "I met him before he was Googled." Hurley, whose company was bought by Google for $1.65 billion in October, made an appearance to promote a joint contest in which users submit 15-second videos to YouTube about anything they'd like. The highest-rated video will be broadcast on CBS during this year's Superbowl.

Showing its understanding of the popularity of virtual communities, Moonves also introduced Philip Rosedale, CEO of Second Life publisher Linden Lab. He appeared onstage to announce that CBS will let people's Second Life avatars, or online personas, hang out in an online replica of Star Trek's spaceship Enterprise, a property owned by CBS.

"The bottom line is this: there's no such thing anymore as old or new media," Moonves said. "We're just media."