RealTime IT News

CBS Takes Switchboard Stake

Following through on earlier hints that it would expand its new media business, CBS Corp. Wednesday purchased a 35 percent stake in online directory Switchboard Inc. from Banyan Systems Inc.

CBS will also receive warrants entitling it to take an additional 5 percent stake and the broadcast network has committed $135 million in promotion and branding across all its television, radio and outdoor properties. The site will also be renamed CBS Switchboard.

Switchboard allows users to search for the phone numbers and addresses of businesses and individuals across the United Sates and to obtain customized maps and driving directions.

Mel Karmazin, CBS Corp. president and chief executive officer, said CBS's assets in promotion, branding and advertising sales give it a unique advantage as it increases its focus on the Internet.

"This agreement with Banyan is another significant step in providing our online consumers and advertisers with meaningful Web destinations that provide real service. Switchboard's ability to address both national and local businesses mirrors our own national network and local station operations -- and the leadership position Switchboard already enjoys in its field will be further enhanced by its new name and the unparalleled promotional power of CBS's many media platforms," he said.

Banyan Systems Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Ferry said CBS's cross-media sales forces will help the company increase its focus on the growing e-commerce market.

The deal marks CBS's third large Internet investment. The company already owns 38 percent of SportsLine USA Inc. and 20 percent of MarketWatch.com Inc. -- both of which had successful initial public offerings over the past year.

CBS also recently took equity stakes in hollywood.com, a movie Web site, shopping mall Storerunner.com and Office.com, a "destination" for small and mid-size businesses.