Commentary

Networks Go Internet-Retro -- Way Back To 1999

Networks are going retro with their online efforts.

CBS will be producing user-generated-like TV promos to try to lure viewers. Not only that, but it wants to produce short-form clips of TV shows.

Haven't we been here before?

It wasn't that long ago -- before networks were streaming full free episodes -- that they were offering clips of their shows.

Now it seems that viewers would rather watch highlights of shows. CBS says only a third of its users watch a complete episode. Attention spans are shorter online than with traditional TV.

For some, it's kind of like watching ESPN's "SportsCenter" highlights rather than watching a whole late season Yankees-Red Sox game. Just give them the juicy bits and they're done.

CBS says it continues to learn lessons from those crazy users that generate content -- like one guy who put together a clip of one-liners of David Caruso from "CSI: Miami."  It was so funny that CBS showed the clip during its upfront presentation last May.

The network's digital strategy may just seem like a conservative play all the way around. CBS points to research that says what users want right now -- not two or three or five years from now.

CBS is conservative -- perhaps rightfully so -- syndicating its content to scores of qualified Internet video destinations rather than getting involved in the risky NBC-News Corp proposition of Hulu.com, a stand-alone Internet destination intended to be a sort of modern-day big cable system, housing all sort of programming.

For CBS, it's back to a cautious future of the Internet.

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