Moonves atwitter about Web

Once-skittish exec now touts Internet as a 'lab,' wants premium content

Leslie Moonves said Tuesday that though he once was "nervous" and "scared," losing sleep over the possibility of the Internet siphoning off viewers from his TV network, he now believes that any media company that does not distribute its content online in some manner is doomed to fail.

"The Internet is not cannibalistic; it is only additive," as far as its relationship to CBS TV network goes, the CBS Corp. chief said at the annual Mixx Conference and Expo in New York. "We view the Internet as a lab for our TV network. The Internet can help the network and vice versa."

Moonves said it is a place for CBS to test programming concepts and offer viewers value-added content. He also said he is not a big believer in only streaming CBS programming. "We want to offer viewers premium content on the Internet that they can't get on the network, not regurgitated TV content."

Moonves said the fact that CBS has its content on about 300 Web sites is a testament to how the company feels about the relationship between the Internet and television. "We want our content everywhere," he said, adding that CBS and the online distributors can make money with online content.

Moonves touted CBS Corp.'s recent $1.8 billion acquisition of CNET, saying CBS could have either started up from scratch all the specialized Web sites that are part of the CNET family or bought CNET's robust online portfolio. He chose the latter.

He said the acquisition put CBS "in the ballgame" as far as a broad assortment of Internet content sites goes and that CBS now plans to use the CNET sites in conjunction with local TV and radio stations to try to siphon off local ad dollars from newspaper competitors.

"Our idea is to be all things to all people," Moonves said. "It is a brave new world out there."

John Consoli is senior editor at Mediaweek.