First Mover Interview: Jim Lanzone

When CBS Interactive bought Clicker, it also gained a president

Adweek: So what’s a digital-media tyro like you doing at a fusty old-media company like CBS?

Jim Lanzone: I don’t really think of it that way at all. People think the Internet will supercede TV, but it’s really been more additive than anything else, largely because it’s so portable. It’s not taking anything away from linear television; if anything, it’s encouraged people to spend even more time watching video.

AW: The fact that we can watch TV on a telephone: is this doing something insidious to the parts of our brain that process narrative?

JL: Think about the very early days of TV—the first shows were structured just like radio broadcasts or Broadway shows. You start with the familiar and you expand from there. Creative people haven’t taken advantage of the new media platforms; we’re still in this brackish time between two eras.

AW: You still watch TV?

JL: I’m a binge watcher. I have DirecTV, so I have a ton of shows on the DVR: The Daily Show, [Real Time With] Bill Maher, SNL. I’ve been watching How I Met Your Mother for six years. There are definitely more shows out there that I want to watch that I don’t have time to watch, which I suppose is a great sign of where programming is headed.

AW: Why did CBS issue a fatwa against Hulu?

JL: It’s not a fatwa. Look, I believe in being pro-sumer, but the issue is really just as simple as requiring fair market value for our content. Premium content shouldn’t be given away cheaply. By the same token, we haven’t closed the door on considering teaming up with Hulu in some way. (You saw we just did a licensing deal with Netflix in February.)

AW: Can you write code?

JL: I never got into programming when I was a kid. I was too busy playing Pitfall and Kaboom! on Atari to write code. But then again, I don’t think Les Moonves knows how to make a television set either.

AW: So there’s no disconnect between the old media centers—New York, L.A.—and Silicon Valley?

JL: Well, you’re looking at it from a geographic standpoint and that really isn’t relevant any longer. I think Silicon Valley is the third leg of the media stool; I mean, there’s a reason why all the animated features are made in Silicon Valley now. Engineers are the new artists of this generation of media.

AW: Are you from Silicon Valley?

JL: I grew up in San Carlos, where Oracle now stands. In fact, they built Oracle on the old Marine World site. George Lucas used some of the elephants from Marine World in Star Wars, and after it came out—I must have seen it 25 times that summer—they started offering Bantha rides at Marine World.

AW: Speaking of which, what the hell happened to George Lucas? Those three Star Wars prequels were just god-awful.

JL: I know what happened to George Lucas: the ‘80s. If movies peaked in the ‘70s, then it’s fair to say that the 2000s is the Renaissance period for TV. The new Battlestar [Galactica] was at least a thousand times better than the old one. And I almost didn’t watch it at first because I was afraid it was going to ruin my childhood memories of the original.

Recommended articles