CBS On Demand: 'It's Hard To Say Where This All Goes'

PASADENA, CALIF.--CBS, like the other major broadcast networks, has no clear vision on the future of on-demand programming, but is about to try everything, the network's top executive told reporters here Wednesday. CBS has done on-demand video deals with the new Google Video Internet service and with Comcast Corp. video-on-demand service, and will continue to seek other deals where it can find them.

"It's hard to say where this all goes," conceded Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment, during CBS' day at the Television Critics Association press tour here. "We don't have any information yet. We are hopeful that it will create an additional revenue stream for years. It is something the audience is interested in."

TV affiliates have been the most vocal about these new technologies and what harm might come to their businesses. But Tassler says CBS affiliates are in sync with what the network is doing.

"We have a joint interest in preserving the first run of the show," she says. "The idea is to enhance the TV experience to drive people back to the network, and to enhance future loyalty." This is indeed what happened with an early Yahoo! video promotion that involved "Two and a Half Men," Tassler said. She said following that Yahoo! broadcast, the show did its highest-ever numbers on the network for adults 18-49.



On other programming matters, Tassler said the network still hasn't decided any specifics on airing Spanish-soap style telenovelas. Most likely, she says, a series will air twice a week over a 13-week period. CBS has some five different producers working on telenovelas.

Tassler also said the network is working on a show called "Game Show Marathon," in which contestants compete in a different classic game show each week. Classic game shows are being considered: "The Price Is Right," "Match Game," and "Beat the Clock."

In a session on CBS News, Sean McManus, the division's new president, has decided against a team of anchors fronting the "CBS Evening News." "I think finding one anchor is the way to go," he said. Les Moonves, chairman of CBS Corp., had said the network should consider a new configuration with the show, possibly abandoning the traditional single anchor format.

As to the possible hiring of NBC's Katie Couric as the show's anchor, McManus declined to discuss the matter.

McManus did talk up the fact that "The CBS Evening News" ratings, with Bob Schieffer in the anchor chair, have grown recently--coming the closest to ABC's "World News Tonight" in five years and the closest to NBC's "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" in six years.

Schieffer has expressed his desire to continue--but only until CBS finds a permanent anchor. "If Bob wanted to do it, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion right now," said McManus.

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