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CBS's Quincy Smith wants to make case against Hulu

September 24, 2009 |  5:21 pm

Don't look for CBS to join Disney, News Corp. and NBC in Hulu anytime soon.

CBS Interactive Chief Executive Officer Quincy Smith criticized Hulu in an e-mail he sent to staffers that naturally somehow found its way to the blog TechCrunch. The e-mail doesn't really say a whole lot that's new as CBS' decision to steer its content and money clear of the online video site speaks loud enough.

Nonetheless, leaked e-mails often reveal a lot more candor than canned statements, and that is what makes this one interesting as Smith sounds like he'd like to start a public relations offensive against Hulu.

In the e-mail Smith wrote: "We should think about how hard it would be to prove that some ratings declines are a result of reckless Hulu streams." He then added that would help make the case for TV Everywhere, the Time Warner and Comcast Corp. initiative that CBS has signed on to that will require consumers to prove ("authenticate" is the word the industry uses)  that they already subscribe to a cable or satellite service before being able to watch content online for free. Hulu requires no such authentication from its users.

There are two schools of thought on online viewing. On the one hand, anything that takes viewers away from their TV sets and the ads that go with them is bad for the business. However, online platforms also can be strong promotional devices for the networks. The real challenge will be figuring out maximizing revenue and whether advertising or advertising and some sort of subscription model is the way to go.

Though CBS may be anti-Hulu, which offers lots of shows and limited commercials, it does stream some of its own shows on its CBS.com and its TV.com site. 

CBS confirmed that memo being circulated is indeed Smith's e-mail. What will be more interesting is what CBS does to whoever leaked the e-mail. On that topic, CBS declined comment.

-- Joe Flint


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