CBS, Comcast officials stress embrace of Internet

Executives of these companies as well as Joost and Current all cite business efforts linking the two forms of media

Representatives of older and new media companies detailed their embraces of the Internet Friday at the Web 2.0 Summit conference in San Francisco, with supposed old-line companies emphasizing opportunities and dismissing any threats to longstanding business models.

Executives from CBS, Comcast, Joost, and Current participated in panel sessions on media operations and the Internet. While the Internet might be seen as potentially taking viewers away from traditional broadcast and cable television, panelists noted that TV viewership still accounts for several hours per person daily and continues on its 30-year trend upward.

Comcast and CBS officials both noted that the Internet can extend their businesses.

"We love the Internet for a variety of reasons," said Amy Banse, president of Comcast Interactive Media, which is responsible for the cable TV provider's Internet businesses. People use Comcast's pipe to access the Internet and Comcast is the largest residential ISP, she said.

But Comcast also believes in cable TV and that it will be around for a while, she said. "People thought that with television, radio would disappear and with cable television, broadcast television would disappear, and we all know that that hasn't happened," Banse said.

The Internet has enabled CBS to extend beyond its largely U.S.-based audience and to gain "new eyeballs," said Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, which covers Internet operations. "We, CBS, have not found the Internet to be cannibalistic to television," Smith said.

Persons who see a two-minute clip of a CBS show, such as "How I Met Your Mother," might be encouraged to watch the program, he said. He recalled how a recent clip of David Letterman interviewing Paris Hilton showed up on YouTube and drew a lot of traffic; this was embraced by CBS, which carries Letterman's show.

Asked by panel moderator Josh Quittner, of Fortune magazine, if she was worried about Google, Banse dismissed this.

"You want me to be a dinosaur running scared. I'm really not," she said. Google has been a "wonderful partner" for Comcast, with people accessing the search site via the Comcast pipe, said Banse.

In a subsequent panel session, officials from Joost, which provides broadcast-quality Internet television service, and Current, which blends broadcast TV with interactive Internet communications, shared their companies' visions.

"We wanted to bring the magic of the Internet to television, not the dumbness of television to the Internet," said Joel Hyatt, co-founder and CEO of Current. A community has been fostered to submit video that can be viewed on Current TV.

Joost, meanwhile, is making peer-to-peer-based video distribution software that can run on PCs and the Macintosh, said Mike Volpi, Joost CEO. High-quality is streamed, with some of it professionally created by companies such as CBS and Viacom. Other content is developed by persons who are not so familiar. Joost is trying to develop an advertising-supported model.

Both Joost and Current embrace advertising as a business model.

"I believe advertising is definitely the way to go," Volpi said. Advertising thus far has not blended well on the Internet because it has been offered in the form of banner ads or keywords, he said. But there are plenty of ad dollars to be gained by going after targeted users, he said.

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