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CBS and online syndication

Cbs_dot_com_logo This morning, CBS announced that it would make video clips and full episodes from many of its top shows available online on a free, advertiser-supported basis through at least 10 third-party sites. The announcement is intriguing for a whole bunch of reasons. First, it confirms that the Eye Network won't be joining the video portal and distribution service announced last month by NBC-Universal and News Corp. Second, in addition to several straightforward Web video outlets, the initial distribution outlets include Joost, the peer-to-peer-powered video network (another sign that the entertainment industry really doesn't care what technology's involved, as long as its products aren't easily copied), BeBo, a social network, and Netvibes,  a personalized media aggregator. Moving beyond the AOLs and MSNs of the world is smart, given how fragmented the online audience is. Third, those outlets don't include YouTube. The two companies have a relationship, but it's not what it could be.

It's worth noting that CBS isn't giving up much control even as it pushes videos away from Innertube, its own site. Episodes and clips will be available for a limited time only -- evidently, a bid to preserve other "windows" in the conventional TV business, such as syndication and DVD sales. And there's no indication that people will be able to redistribute CBS' videos or embed them onto their own websites, as NBC and News Corp. have proposed doing. Such restrictions aren't surprising from an established media giant; nevertheless, in the interest of protecting (substantial) existing revenue sources, they prevent CBS from realizing the full potential of a vital new revenue stream.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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