CBS: Getting in touch with your Inner ‘tube

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Lotsa coverage of CBS’ new broadband TV channel, dubbed “innertube,” both from yesterday’s trades and today’s broadsheets like the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal.

We think it’s a marvelous name, because when you’ve got one foot on the dock, and another in the canoe, you probably should have an innertube around you: You’re sure to get wet.

As the LA Times points out,

“CBS executives said the site, at cbs.com/innertube, also would become a clearinghouse for free viewing of TV reruns, including current, classic and canceled shows — once the network reaches an agreement with its affiliates on which shows they can use.”

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“Once”? Try “if.” Essentially, broadcast TV stations know their dinosaurs, and they’re not keen to help hasten the arrival of the meteor that wipes them out for good. Ostensibly, CBS is making the argument that broadband offerings will only drive viewer to watch more TV, but there’s a reason why Wall Street is so down on traditional TV networks: Online, interactive advertising is skyrocketing. As the Wall Street Journal notes,

“Innertube represents an effort by CBS to cultivate new revenue streams by following advertisers as they scale back on TV commercials in favor of the Web.”

In other words, affiliates should hardly be expected to gleefully approve the repositioning of CBS programming to the web when they are the ones who stand to lose TV commercial revenue for having done so.

What’s the real reason? The cost of making TV shows just isn’t worth it – relative to the profits obtained from selling commericials in them.

As CBS entertainment capo Nancy Tellem told the Washington Post, “This gives us a whole new opportunity to develop new ideas on a platform that doesn’t demand the high costs that we’re seeing on the network side.”

There’s also a creative conundrum: On the one hand, CBS is the home to down the middle shows like “Yes, Dear” and “King of Queens.” The web, a la YouTube and Google Video, is the home to anything-goes content. How you reconcile the milquetoast viewership that’s the mainstay of a broadcast TV network with the Wild West denizens of online – without alienating either demographic – is anybody’s guess.

We’re willing to bet, though, that rerunning “I Love Lucy” on broadband isn’t the way to attract the kids who’re tuning into “The Shield” to watch crack whores get pimp-smacked by Vic Mackey.