CBS Pumps Up to Compete with Hulu

 via NY Times

One month ago, CBS has redesigned the previously clunky site to showcase the thousands of new and old television episodes that it offers, from “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” to “Charlie’s Angels.” And on Monday, the company is expected to announce distribution deals with PBS, Sony, MGM and Endemol that will expand its free advertising-supported online library.tv1

Many Web users are already familiar with Hulu, Fancast and other Web sites that bring the television experience to the Internet. In the land grab for the online TV audience, CBS hopes to define itself by adding a community layer to the videos and by encouraging user interaction.

CBS, the most-watched TV network so far this season, already puts the most recent episodes of its shows on Those shows will be available on as well, but Anthony Soohoo, who oversees the entertainment and lifestyle categories for CBS Interactive, said he did not intend for the site to be “tied to the success of our shows.” has taken various forms over the years. In the mid-1990s, it was the name of CNet’s syndicated television show about the Internet. More recently, the company turned it into a guide to TV, with listings, forums and fan information. The site recorded more than 16 million unique visitors in November, according to the measurement firm comScore.

“In the past, it’s been a place to get information,” Mr. Soohoo said. “If we add more video content to the site, we believe it can drive more community.”

To date, much of the site’s episodic content has come from the popular video site Hulu, the joint venture between NBC Universal and the News Corporation. With this week’s announcements about its new partners, will be able to add classic shows like “Bewitched” and “The Addams Family” to the site. Showtime, the premium cable channel owned by CBS, will provide episodes of “Dexter” and “Californication.”

None of the partnerships are exclusive. Because it cannot be the only source for episodes, CBS executives want to be the most comprehensive one. Users already rate episodes, write reviews and view cast and crew information on the site.

CBS expects comparisons to Hulu, which has become one of the top video-viewing sites in the country in the last year. By placing an emphasis on the user interactions on the site, it will seek to, as the Web site put it last month, “move beyond Hulu.”

Leslie Moonves, the chief executive of the CBS Corporation, called “extremely exciting” at an investors’ conference last month and said he thought the site would become “one of the leading destinations” for online TV viewing.

Shelly Palmer, the author of “Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV,” said people tended not to use YouTube, Hulu and other video aggregation sites for social interaction.

“On the other hand, I’m sure the team at CBS thinks that well-executed social media components might differentiate from other video sites,” he said. “Consumers will be the ultimate judge.”

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