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Buzz-worthy Deal for CBS

CBS has worked out promotional arrangements with third-party studios Warner Bros. Television and Twentieth Century Fox to stream the first four episodes from their fall CBS series on the network's broadband web site Innertube. The free, ad-supported episodes will be offered for a week after they air on TV.

The deal is designed to create buzz around the series - Twentieth's new show Shark and sophomores How I Met Your Mother and The Unit, and Warner's new shows The Class and Smith and sophomore The New Adventures of Old Christine. Networks have so far been met with cooperation from studios outside their corporate families to digitally distribute shows for promotional purposes, such as NBC's deal to offer the pilot of Warner Bros.-produced Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip via Netflix.

But they still run up against friction from the studios on digital distribution deals designed to bring in additional revenue - ad-supported streaming of a series' entire season, for example, or selling downloads of the series on iTunes. That explains why the Warner Bros. and Twentieth shows will stay on Innertube for just a week after they air on TV, while episodes of the shows CBS owns or co-owns, such as CSI and Jericho will remain on the site for four weeks.

The studios, which front the millions of dollars it costs to produce TV series, are reluctant to commit to such longer term digital distribution deals for fear that they may damage the backend value their series see from DVD and syndication sales.