CBS to Acquire Internet Video Guide Firm Clicker

CEO Jim Lanzone has been named president of CBS Interactive.

NEW YORK - CBS Corp. said Friday it has agreed to acquire Internet video guide company Clicker Media.

It didn't disclose financial terms. Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce estimated the price tag at possibly in the $30 million-$50 million range, an amount that he called financially "immaterial" to CBS.

Clicker co-founder and CEO Jim Lanzone will serve as the new president of the company's CBS Interactive unit. He succeeds Neil Ashe who in December announced his plan to step down after serving in the role since CBS Corp. acquired CNET Networks in 2008.

The acquisition of Clicker will add another asset to CBS Interactive's roster of properties, which include CNET, TV.com, CBS.com, CBSSports.com, CBSNews.com and Gamespot.com. TV.com is seen as a particular area of possible synergy between the two firms.

In a statement, Lanzone said that CBS Interactive's assets "have unlimited potential for expansion."

"In just over a year, Jim has created one of the leading navigation and discovery tools for video programming on the Internet," said CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves. "Clicker's products and proprietary technologies add firepower to our existing portfolio of entertainment properties, and if we can help grow Clicker to its full potential in the years ahead, the strategic value could be tremendous."

In a brief phone conversation, Lanzone told The Hollywood Reporter that Clicker's social, targeting and personalization technology could benefit other CBS Interactive assets.

"There are a range of opportunities from CBS.com and CBSSports.com and all that to one of our close cousins, TV.com, where I think there is a lot of synergy and potential overlap," he also said. " That's a 20 million users a month Web site, and the iPhone app has been downloaded 10 million times. It has similarities, and together we can create hopefully the leading hub for navigating the next generation of programming."

Asked for more detail about the potential to leverage the offers of TV.com and Clicker under the same corporate roof, Lanzone said: "Clicker and TV.com perhaps over time might come together. We will take an agnostic approach to that - whatever is best for CBS."

Could their offers and services come together on the same site? "They could actually, theoretically. There is a lot that they have in common and a lot that they do differently," he said. "They both have programming guide assets. That's all Clicker does and we go very deeply on that. And TV.com does have some of that, but also has proprietary content and is a great place to watch video. We don't do that. They also have community content around television content. We will have the teams work together to share where appropriate and over time we will figure it all out."

Asked about potential limits of synergies between Clicker and CBS Interactive video offers, Lanzone said: "Any search property is going to have to remain neutral" to help find the desired content - whatever company produces it, he explained. "Google is not promoting YouTube at the expense of other Web site to within search results...We need to be neutral on that front. On the other hand, there are a lot of synergies and great video assets within CNET, within CBS and CBSSports.com and great data we can mine."

Moonves in a statement also lauded Lanzone as "a dynamic, creative executive who knows the interactive space and its key players." He added: "In these last couple of years, we've grown CBS into a top 10 global Internet property. I'm confident that with Jim at the helm, we will continue to expand our digital footprint and capitalize on our scale in this fast-growing marketplace."

Before Clicker, Lanzone was CEO of Ask.com, formerly known as Ask Jeeves.
Launched in Nov. 2009, Clicker is a guide to legal broadcast programming on the Web. The companies said it is indexing more than 1 million online TV shows, movies and videos, including free and paid services. It has 2.5 million monthly users.

"We view Clicker.com as fitting into CBS' Interactive strategy nicely as it brings perhaps hundreds of thousands of users of this online/interactive TV guide into their portfolio," said Joyce. "The site is a unique property in that you can search for TV episode and movie content (from any content owner) and click straight through to it on Hulu.com, the content owner’s site, Amazon or iTunes site to watch it. 

There is currently no advertising business model on Clicker.com, "but there could be in the future, which could be one aspect of the upside for CBS," said Joyce. "Secondly, Clicker.com brings an informational asset surrounding online video viewing tastes, selections, and comments that could drive algorithms based on the database of that information, which could be useful to CBS and its advertisers."

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