CBS launched what may be the modern media-industry version of a CNN with a new broadband-distributed news feed that will send live, anchored news programming to Internet-connected TVs and other devices – an attempt by the company to monetize its CBS News unit without the old-world hassle of building a cable-TV network to do so.
The new outlet, dubbed “CBSN,” will be available on CBSNews.com and its mobile website and selected connected TV devices – including Amazon Fire TV, Roku players and Roku TV, Apple TV, and others, as well as a newly launched CBS News app for Windows 8/8.1 and Windows Phone 8/8.1 The company said CBSN will also be available on the CBS News apps for Android and other leading platforms before the end of the year.
In unveiling the programming effort, CBS is moving to attract a populace that has already embraced mobile devices as a means of getting much of its information about the world. Getting up to speed in this new era is paramount for TV-news players, who are seeing their audiences defect to social media and mobile devices to get the latest developments in sports, weather, business and news of national and international import.Indeed, Pew Research data shows that “between 2010 and 2012, the number of U.S. adults who said they watched cable news regularly fell 5 percentage points, from 39% to 34%. Meanwhile, the percentage of people who said they got news regularly from social networks rose 13 points to 20%, and those who got news regularly from a mobile device rose 6 points to 15%.”
CBS News felt a natural audience existed for its content, even when programs like “60 Minutes” and “The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley” were not on the air, said David Rhodes. president of CBS News. “Our audience and other audiences besides are available in other places at other times,” he said in an interview Thursday morning. “The discussion we had is people are interested in our offering and are available on these platforms. We are going to meet them with a product, or someone else is.”
Rivals are also moving full-bore. CNN has unveiled CNNGo, a service that allows viewers to choose the video segments they want to stream. NBC News is the owner of Breaking News, a service that sends headlines via digital feeds when it discovers reliable accounts of important events as they happen. ABC News has established deals with Yahoo and Apple TV that make its content available to digerati.
Visitors to the new feed will discover a live-stream that looks much like a cable-news program. A two-anchor team holds forth on stories of the day, including cutaways to CBS correspondents in the field. One segment on the live stream focused on the White House, and another featuring Pentagon correspondent David Martin looked at a U.S. strike on a bomb-making facility in Syria.At times, the webcast proceded in leisurely fashion, untethered to the time demands of a more traditional evening newscast. Martin had several minute to explain the event and to answer follow-up questions.
It’s not all centered on matters of the utmost import. Segments available Thursday include a look at what’s new on Netflix and a 15-second report on a SUV crashing into a Texas restaurant (the Target ad that preceded it was longer than the vignette).
Surrounding the streamcast, however, are options to choose video segments and stories that have already run and even a “CBSN10” video that point to what Rhodes said was “the video version of a text-based site’s ‘most viewed’ or ‘most linked.’” When viewers choose to watch something other than the live stream, that window is minimized but still present so users can return to it quickly in case important news breaks.
Rhodes said the feed would sport a live, 60-minute format, with anchors delivering updated news between 9 a.m. and midnight eastern every day. Jeff Glor, the Sunday anchor of “The CBS Evening News,” will appear on CBSN. as will Elaine Quijano, Michelle Miller, Don Dahler, and Vladmir Duthiers.
While the programming may change over time as CBS News learns about audience habits, Rhodes said the network was unlikely to offer commentary-based content on the new outlet. “There are programmers who do that, and they do a good job of it,” he said. “This is not about competing with those programmers. This is about giving people a CBS News product.” Viewers do not expect such stuff from CBS News, he said.
The programming will come with advertising. Inaugural sponsors include Amazon and Microsoft, CBS said, noting other advertisers will also take part in the service.
CBS News has for the last three weeks acted as if the new feed was live in an effort to work out kinks, said Rhodes, but the venture has been in the pipeline for over a year. “We wanted to make sure that people have a certain expectation of CBS. It’s got to be high quality, and so we weren’t going to just put something out there that didn’t meet that quality expectation,” he said.
The new outlet surfaces as CBS has detailed a number of attempts to bring its content to digital audiences. The company recently debuted a subscription-video-on-demand service called “CBS All Access” that will let people watch a selection of current and past CBS programming for a monthly fee. On Wednesday, the company told investors it had entered into a pact with Sony Corp. to be part of a proposed broadband service and that it expected to make at least some content from Showtime to be available in some form via broadband by 2015.