Kramer: CBS Extends TV To Web With Blogs, Streams, Actor Interviews

The decision to allow Google to Webcast the new UPN TV show "Everybody Hates Chris" is part of an "experiment" to determine the best use of TV content on the Web, Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media, said Tuesday at OMMA East in New York City.

Google began hosting the show, ad-free, on Monday--and will continue to do so through Thursday.

The point of the test, Kramer told the audience during his afternoon keynote address, is to determine how many people watch the show online and how much traffic is driven back to Viacom Web sites as a result of the broadcast. "It's just an experiment on our part to see what kind of viewership [the show] will get," Kramer said.

"It will give us a basis for understanding, at first cut, what we have to do in the future ... to take TV and use it on the Web," he said.

While the Webcasts are ad-free for now--"advertisers only pay for ads on the air," Kramer said--he added that the situation might change in the future. For instance, once Viacom gets an idea of how many consumers view shows online, the network might keep the TV ads in the online broadcasts and charge marketers for them.



One possibility is that CBS will use data from the "Everybody Hates Chris" streams on Google to develop a rate card "that in some way understands what kind of traffic we're likely to get on a secondary showing," he said.

"Everybody understands that this medium is changing, and we have to open the door," Kramer said. He also floated the idea that in the future, Viacom would make shows available ad-free online, but would charge visitors a small fee--$1, perhaps--to view them.

This week's Google Webcasts are just one of the ways that CBS is exploring how to use the Internet.

"We're creating all kinds of new programming only on the Web," Kramer said. For instance, Web sites now have features usually found on DVDs, such as interviews with the show's stars.

Many shows also have blogs. For one new show, "Ghost Whisperer" -- about a woman who talks to dead people--the network is hosting a blog by co-executive producer and self-professed psychic James Van Praagh.

"We're doing everything we can to try to extend the experience of what's going on," Kramer said.

Kramer also discussed the network's efforts to post original news content online, including political reports and other news that the networks don't devote time to.

"Correspondents are filing and updating throughout the day," he said, adding that the Web allows for "other areas of coverage that CBS has never been able to highlight before."

In addition, he said, "news has become a loop," thanks to the immediate viewer feedback available online. "The story doesn't end any more when you post it, when you put it on the TV."

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