Video-Streaming in an Innertube

A few weeks ago, I wrote about ABC making several of its primetime shows available online. Following suit, CBS has launched a broadband channel of its own, called innertube. There are differences in the two networks’ approaches. Some are good, some bad. The exciting thing is that both ABC and CBS are moving in the right direction. This movement also creates some interesting advertising opportunities.

A quick recap of what ABC’s doing. It recently launched a streaming channel featuring episodes of some of its most popular shows: “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” and “Commander in Chief,” and an entire season of “Alias.” The network is making the shows available the day after they air on television and is including interactive advertising in these shows. This advertising has actually been kind of cool.

A single advertiser has sponsored the episodes I’ve seen, and each episode has featured three or four commercial breaks. Advertisers have included Cingular, Suave, and Toyota, among others. The ad units have included microsite-like environments, and some also including streaming video. In my previous column, I was somewhat critical of ABC for calling this a test. I saw the label as the network’s lack of commitment to the platform. After spending some time with these shows, however, I’m pleasantly surprised by video’s quality and ABC’s approach to the advertising.

CBS announced the launch of innertube, its broadband entertainment channel, on May 4. Like ABC, it’s making this content available free of charge to users, mostly via a streaming feed. This, of course, precludes portability, but I still appreciate what both networks are doing.

In terms of content, CBS is creating companion content for many of its most popular shows. It’s also repurposing shows broadcast on the network that didn’t reach a mass audience when originally aired but that have a loyal, passionate following — a situation that lends itself nicely to Internet appeal. And it’s creating a decent amount of Web-only content — shows specifically created for innertube. Some of the shows they’re rolling out include:

  • Companion programming:
    • “ACM Awards Preview” (May)
    • “Best of Big Brother House Calls” (June)
    • “Amazing Race: Finish Line” (October)
    • “Survivor Live” (September)

  • Repurposed programming:
    • “Love Monkey” (June)
    • “Game Show Marathon” (June)
    • “Fire Me… Please!” (July)
    • “Jokes On You” (August)

  • Original digital media programming:
    • “Greek to Chic” — a college-based makeover show
      • Frat version (May)
      • Sorority version (Q4)

    • “The Green Room” — an entertainment magazine show (May)
    • “BBQ Bill” — a sketch comedy series (May)
    • “Animate This!” — a celebrity-based animated show (May)
    • “InTurn” — a reality show where winner gets cast on “As The World Turns” (May)
    • “Hook Me Up” — a dating show (August)

What’s missing, of course, is the big ticket: where are CBS’s primetime shows? It appears CBS is talking with its affiliates, trying to warm them up to the idea of making these shows available online. At the affiliate level, there are likely concerns about cannibalizing local audiences and, thus, ad revenue. Understandable. But stay tuned, as CBS is promising exactly that content in the very near future.

CBS already has some big advertisers supporting this new platform, including Brinkmann Corporation, Cadbury Schweppes, Chili’s, Pier 1 Imports, and Verizon It’s also making this advertising available to the masses, so to speak. The advertising it’s offering is less interactive than that of ABC, but it seems CBS is open to more advertisers per show and even to product placement in its Web-specific shows. For the most part, CBS is offering :15 pre-roll ads packaged with run-of-network media on And it’s allowing one presenting sponsor and two to four integrated sponsors for each show.

Though I still think both ABC and CBS have some work to do — more interactive advertising and higher quality streaming for CBS; more Web-only content for ABC; and portability for both — I’m still very excited to see the evolution. We’re moving in the right direction.

Will you watch your favorite shows online? Will you recommend advertising in these environments to your clients? Let me know what you think.

Join us for our Online Video Advertising Forum in New York City, June 16, 2006.

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