David Rhodes on CBSN: ‘We Need to Make Money’

By Brian Flood Comment

After CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves gave him a contract extension earlier this year, CBS News president David Rhodes will be on the job until at least 2019. So what are his goals? At TVNewsCheck’s annual NewsTECHForum in New York on Monday, Rhodes said making CBSN profitable, is one of them.

On digital Ad sales:

The pricing that we’re receiving for the advertising we’re selling on [CBS News’ digital] platforms, is very strong and, in fact, is more than two [times] what we’re receiving for our overall average broadcast news offering. That’s counter-intuitive when you think about [analogies that are] made to other kinds of news presentation, where you think that when something goes digital it gets cheaper. When our offering has gone digital, it actually has become more expensive. We’re very proud of that and it shows the potential to scale up not just the audience but the monetization of the platform.

Will non-CBS-owned affiliates be able to contribute video packages to CBSN?

There is a great deal of affiliate interest in the platform. And we’re hoping that some of the things we learn about it on a national or even on an international scale are lessons that could be applied locally. A big part of our core broadcast offering is that it’s got local integration in it. It’s one of the main value propositions that we have over national cable news, for instance. The whole idea was that there could, over time, be an important local component. At the same time, the audience that we’re reaching is not localized …. And while I think there [can be] local integration opportunities over time, it’s not what we think people are coming in for. They’re coming in for the big stories — in recent weeks, San Bernardino [and] Paris among them.

On the future of CBSN:

We need to make money. We need to not lose money. Our daily operation is about broadcast journalism and video newsgathering and production. We have a large organization that’s set up around doing that activity globally in a high-quality way. We have a variety of ways of monetizing that activity.

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