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CNN to add more multimedia

In a move to beef up CNN Interactive, execs said the site will feature more audio and video, plus Webcasts of popular CNN shows.

Executives of CNN Interactive disclosed plans today to beef up the Web site to include more video and audio in about a month, not only with live news feeds but also Webcasts of popular shows such as Larry King Live.

The company also said it was laying plans to launch a Spanish-language edition of CNN, tapping a burgeoning market in cyberspace. This trend is growing. Last month, for example, CBS TeleNotias, a Spanish-language cable news channel, said it would expand its operation to the Net later this year.

The moves are part of CNN's strategy to differentiate itself from a crowded field of online news sites that includes ABC, MSNBC, Fox, and soon CBS (See related story), and tap new advertising revenue sources by airing online commercials, just like TV. This also is another effort by parent company Time Warner to achieve much-needed "synergies" from its empire of print, television, and online media properties.

Many Web sites have been shy about adding more video and sound to their pages, because multimedia components can gobble up a great deal of bandwidth and can be difficult for users with slow modems to access. But CNN is undaunted. The company is playing to its long-standing strength--providing breaking television news to a worldwide audience as well as offering popular programs such as Larry King Live and Crossfire--and transferring it to the Web.

CNN will continue to offer news clips to supplement the text on its Web site, but now users also will get to watch a TV-like portrayal of the news without text. "It's just like TV, but you're in control" of what you see, said Scott Woelfel, vice president and editor in chief of CNN Interactive. Links will be provided to the content from the flagship CNN site, he said.

Similar to TV, the video will offer 10-second commercials before it airs, too. That practice, which is becoming more common, has angered some Netizens (See related story). But Woelfel doesn't think it will be a problem with users. Besides, he said, "it's free."

CNN also will sell banner ads for the souped-up video-and-audio site. The company now relies on Vxtreme technology, but sources said it is considering switching to RealNetworks. Woelfel wouldn't comment.