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CBS Interactive Boss, NBCUniversal Top Executive Talk Hulu, Netflix, Apple

Lauren Zalaznick
Gary Gerschoff/Getty Images
Lauren Zalaznick

Jim Lanzone says CBS Corp. continues to like its position and not being a co-owner of Hulu, while Lauren Zalaznick explains her concerns about Nielsen.

CBS Corp. is "absolutely committed" to its strategy of making its TV content available on CBS.com or licensing it to other sites even though Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast/NBCUniversal have opted to continue owning online video site Hulu, a top executive said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo., in a session that was webcast, Jim Lanzone, president of CBS Interactive, said the company continues to dislike "the notion of competing against ourselves with another website." He said CBS decided years ago not to become a co-owner of Hulu and has not changed its "fundamental" view and strategy despite the decision of other entertainment giants to take Hulu off the market.

"We are absolutely committed to that strategy," Lanzone said. CBS.com is "a rocket ship" in terms of growth and always sold out in terms of advertising, he added. Importantly, "we get all the ad revenue" without having to share it with partners, Lanzone said.

He did, however, emphasize that CBS has been open to licensing content to the subscription-based Hulu Plus service. Under a licensing deal, CBS library shows such as Medium and CSI: Miami have been made available on that service, for instance.


Asked why CBS was not willing to become a co-owner of Hulu when her parent company and others continue to be partners in the video site, Lauren Zalaznick, executive vp media innovation and cross-company initiatives at NBCUniversal said: "I actually believe that you can have two right answers." She argued that companies need to have different strategies than competitors. 

"We're in for another couple of years of change and formation" as TV Everywhere offers continue to take shape and monetization opportunities develop further, Zalaznick argued without sharing any specifics on what would be up next for Hulu.
 
Asked about her focus at NBCUniversal, Zalaznick said "we're an audience-development company," and her goal was to never have a separate, standalone digital business. Instead, digital content "is really the same as linear content," and digital strategies have to be part of all business units, she said.

She added that in her current role she was particularly interested in working with "entrepreneurial content distributors or creators."

The session moderator then asked the two executives to briefly comment on various technology giants.

Asked about Netflix, Lanzone said the company is "a great partner for us." Zalaznick in her response called Netflix "awesome" and "a great piece of the [distribution] window that didn't exist" a few years ago. But she also said she wanted to appeal to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings "to keep the long tail alive," a reference to Netflix's recent focus on becoming more selective about what kind of content it pays for.

Asked to comment on Amazon, the executives had similar positive comments, but when they were asked about Aereo, both declined to comment, citing ongoing litigation against the  company that allows subscribers to view over-the-air television online.

Asked about Google, Zalaznick said the company was great and had unlimited resources, but can at times also seem "scary" to others.

Which company worries them most? Zalaznick mentioned Nielsen, because "the whole eco-system of the new and the traditional" needs accurate measurement to monetize content, but depends on one company.

But Lanzone mentioned Apple, citing growing mobile video usage and difficulties in getting that measured. Plus, Apple is a "gatekeeper for distribution," he said.

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai