Local CBS Sites Get Makeover

From seed-spitting contests to town hall meetings, CBS's local online content will remain provincial, but its packaging is going pro, according to Viacom, which announced Monday that its Television Stations Digital Media Group is relaunching each of its 40 stations' Web sites. Under the direction of Jonathan Leess, president of the Media Group, each site is getting a surface polish, a souped-up video flash player, and a slew of local features.

Leess--who's already devoted a year to the project--has conducted three soft launches since May with station Web sites in Salt Lake City www.kutv.com, Minneapolis www.wcco.com, and Denver www.cbs4denver.com.

Web sites for stations in San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, and New York are pending--which, said Leess, will lead the way for 14 other CBS stations, 16 UPN stations, and three that are not affiliated with major networks.

"The commitment behind this initiative represents the television broadcast paradigm shift we must make in order to adapt to today's on-demand, always-on consumer," said Leess. "The improvements we are making across the board will significantly enhance our station's ability to connect with the millions of broadband Internet and wireless users who are thirsting for more video and for locally relevant content."

The focal point of each site is its video streaming product, which allows for free access to the thousands of hours of each local station's archived video libraries, as well as each day's news features. With regard to site layout, Leess said he veered away from the "NASCAR approach," opting for a clean, palatable look.

The all about "content, content, content," said Leess, but, regarding advertising, he was selling on national and regional level through third-party ad sales groups. A portion of the ad space would surely be devoted to Viacom Television Stations Group promotions, Leess added.

A local search engine, which incorporates ZIP-code driven results enhanced by retrospective and prospective search products, is also included on each site. This will give content providers and advertisers an unprecedented degree of reach, according to Leess.

"With regard to advertisers, what differentiates this project is the ability we now have to target the highest CMP levels," Leess. "Advertisers can now target to an extremely specific audience, and we're talking about people at work, which is all the more appealing."

The overall initiative will also feature desktop, wireless, and mobile distributed components, including breaking news, traffic, weather, and entertainment alerts in voice and text, and eventually, video. Also featured prominently on the new sites are real-time weather maps and forecasting alerts; live traffic cameras, maps and accident and construction alert systems that support real-time routing directions; local real estate guides, and sports scoreboards and news. There are also localized content sections dedicated to health, lifestyles, food, entertainment, pets, shopping, autos, and careers.
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