Duo make deal for NCAA tournament clips

CBS announced on Thursday a pact with YouTube under which the site will show clips from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, completing a deal that came together only over the last few days.

Timing was significant as it suggested that the deal was triggered by Viacom’s $1 billion lawsuit against YouTube, announced Tuesday morning.

“It’s definitely sending a message, maybe even two or three,” said one media exec.

CBS has been much more reluctant to take on Google over Web video than other congloms, and the Eye wanted to send the message that Viacom, with which it was once conjoined, is alone in staking out such a hard-line position against Google and YouTube.

Google also appeared to be sending a message — that investors need not worry that the company could get mired in YouTube lawsuits or have content deals put on hold because of rifts with congloms. Since the Viacom suit was announced, the stock has dipped nearly 2%.

Pact is relatively small in terms of content involved. While parties are calling the new offering a CBS channel, it includes mainly clips and highlights from the tournament that started Thursday and not the full games that CBS is airing on its own site as part of its March Madness on Demand program. (It also will allow for voting, commenting and other YouTube-like features.)

But philosophically, the Eye’s willingness to make available to YouTube some of its most prized content shows that the company and new CBS Interactive chief Quincy Smith are willing to play ball with Google if an acceptable licensing agreement can be reached.

“CBS is monetizing its content on the Internet and proving that world-class programming can help bring brand-name advertisers to online platforms,” CBS Sports and News prexy Sean McManus said in a statement.

CBS already has select clips, including some from its latenight shows, on YouTube, but this deal was arranged separately, said people familiar with the negotiations.

Several unusual elements characterized the deal, including the fact that the clips on YouTube will themselves have a sponsor, tournament flagship advertiser Pontiac.

CBS will be deriving revenue primarily from the Pontiac sponsorship instead of receiving licensing fees from Google.

Agreement opened up the possibility that Google could run more sponsored clips, potentially reducing the amount it would have to pay congloms for content. A YouTube spokesman did not return a call seeking comment on this issue.

In a sense, observers said, deal is intuitive for CBS, since many of the more popular highlights from the tourney end up on YouTube anyway.

But pact also highlighted how thorny the world of Web video can be. Just two weeks ago, CBS execs were touting the appeal of member-generated content and other YouTube-like flourishes on CBS SportsLine, the conglom’s own site.

And among the main features on CBS SportsLine are the game highlights and buzzer beaters, which are quickly uploaded to the site after games are completed.

A CBS rep said there would be a link back to SportsLine to prevent cannibalization of traffic to the site.

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