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CBS Taps Fountain of Youth Online

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The Tiffany Network isn't just for older consumers--at least when it comes to online programming.

In fact, its online audience skews far younger than its linear TV viewership. According to data compiled by Magid Media Labs, the average age of a CBS online viewer is 36, compared to 53 for CBS TV. Plus, the net's online content draws 52 percent of its audience from the key 18-49 demographic. On TV, about 27 percent comes from that age group.
 
One example of the different audiences, How I Met Your Mother, has a median age on TV of 44; online it is 28.
 
Unlike rivals, CBS has taken a more distributed approach to its content assets. The company declined to join the News Corp.-NBC Universal joint venture Hulu. Instead, it created the CBS Audience Network, which distributes content across 300-plus properties and services, from established portals to widget companies.
 
"Most people who are using online to do catch-up are a bit on the younger side," said Anthony Soohoo, svp, gm, entertainment, CBS Interactive. "One segment [where] we see a lot of usage for our content is the college market. A lot of them are watching this as catch-up because they don't own a TV at the time."
 
CBS has also bulked up its Internet assets over the past two years, in large part through acquisitions. Most purchases were properties that attract younger visitors, including Last.fm and CNET Networks. The latter includes gadget and gaming sites.
 
Soohoo said the addition of those properties had only a minor impact on CBS' overall online demographics. "The majority of our audience numbers and consumption was outside of CBS properties," he said.
 
CBS' online operations have been a bright spot for the media giant in an otherwise tough environment for its other units. Yesterday it reported a $12.5 billion loss due to a write-down of the value of its broadcast TV and radio assets. Digital contributed $140 million, and the company said CNET's revenue was up 6 percent with a 12 percent increase in display ad sales.
 
CBS said Magid's research shows that its properties generate a 33 percent brand lift for ad campaigns and a 26 percent increase in purchase intent. CBS has tweaked its site nearly a dozen times over the past year, Soohoo said, aiming to up satisfaction rates and enhance the user experience.
 
"We wanted to make sure as we were improving on the site that we were improving our advertising metrics," he said. "It's been encouraging over the last year."