CBS readies bow of broadband channel

Eye to air short-form programming on web

CBS is expected to announce an advertising-supported broadband channel today that will air short-form programming and possibly some network shows after they air on CBS-affiliated stations.

Eye has discussed the channel with advertisers and media buyers but it was unclear Wednesday which shows will be included in the offering.

It’s believed Eye will create original content for the site not related to any current CBS shows, much like MSN and Yahoo! are now doing. One such program could be a talent hunt–similar to LMNO Prods.’ “I Want to Be A Soap Star”– that would give aspiring thesps aged 18 to 25 a chance to live together in Gotham and compete to win a 13-week role on Eye sudser “As the World Turns.” Net has already starting accepting applications for what it’s calling a “CBS.com reality show.” But the site will also likely leverage the strength of the CBS brand by offering up existing Eye web content such as the net’s web-based “Survivor” and “Amazing Race” talkshows.

There’s also a chance CBS will cull shows from its vast library, with ad-supported episodes of chestnuts such as “The Brady Bunch” or “The Twilight Zone.”

CBS already allows consumers to buy such episodes on Google’s video store. Net also sells full episodes of “Survivor” online for 99¢ an episode.

Two months ago, CBS streamed the first three rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament online, which became the most-watched webcast of live TV. The experience emboldened CBS execs to pursue more free ad-supported TV online, rather than paid downloads.

CBS has been at the forefront of putting its news online in rich multi-media format at CBSNews.com, in part because CBS generates that content and owns all the rights.

Network programming is more difficult because broadcast affiliates have firstrun rights to air shows and resist initiatives that dilute their exclusivity.

ABC’s move to rebroadcast firstrun network shows online has triggered a backlash from its affiliates who want a cut of the advertising proceeds. Fox recently announced an agreement with its affils that will allow it to put more of its programming online.

CBS reps declined comment.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report).

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