CBS: Downloads Spur Sampling

Helping confirm the additive power of placing TV content online, more than half of consumers who have streamed CBS programming on the Web had not yet seen the shows on television. Those 53% of online viewers became fans of the CBS TV shows after getting interested online, according to internal research the company has conducted. 

"It's all about getting sampling," said CBS Corp. Chief Research Officer David Poltrack, who mentioned the statistic in a "Future of Television" panel this afternoon at NYU's Stern school of business. "We're looking at this as a key change in direction for us now and looking at our programming as dual distribution programming - over the air and on the Internet."

Poltrack and his fellow network panelists, Disney/ABC TV's Executive VP, Digital Albert Cheng and NBC Universal Cable's Senior VP/New Media/CFO Jean-Briac Perrette, generally agreed that distributing content online did not cannibalize TV viewing. Perrette, however, reminded attendees that networks have a long way to go to prove new-media distribution is economically fruitful as the traditional back-end money from DVD sales and syndication. "It has yet to be seen whether those business models scale in a meaningful way," he said.

The panelists, which also included Music Choice President CEO/Founder David Del Beccaro and Interpublic's VP, Technology & Media Experience, Lydia Loizides, focused on leveraging their content online to engage viewers and make advertisers' money go as far as it could on TV.

While Poltrack cited overwhelming interest in pre-roll advertising for CBS' streaming content, Disney/ABC's Cheng described advertiser interest in creating interactive spots for ABC's streaming player. The network chose to forgo pre-rolls for three commercials per streaming episode, after which viewers can choose to interact with the sponsors' products - by requesting a free coupon, for example.

ABC last summer found that 87% of respondents in a survey about its streaming player could remember the name of the ads' sponsors and the advertisers had a "halo effect" from participating in the online episodes, Cheng said, noting that ABC was maximizing viewers' worth online.

ABC was aiming to get "equal or more money from than online that we would earn from the network," he said.