RealTime IT News

TV Moves to the Internet

The line between TV and the Web got even blurrier Tuesday.

CBS News reinvented itself as a multi-platform digital network with the Web as its primary delivery point. Announcing the expansion of CBSNews.com on Tuesday, CBS said it was "bypassing cable television in favor of the nation's fastest-growing distribution system -- broadband."

Yahoo , which has a Hollywood-based media group and several former TV and movie execs on board, including CEO Terry Semel, said it would provide live, round-the-clock official coverage of the NASA Space Shuttle Discovery mission, beginning on Wednesday with the launch of the 12-day mission.

Meanwhile, Amazon.com furthered its transition from a merchandiser to a digital content provider with its plans to provide streaming video of a concert it's producing and an online casting call for a Harry Potter Kids Review Panel.

AOL is another Web-born company moving into offline production. It launched Network Live, a joint venture with sports and entertainment producer AEG and XM Satellite Radio to produce entertainment to be delivered via satellite, the Internet and wireless.

Last week, AOL's live Web casts of the poverty-relief Live 8 concerts killed MTV's cable broadcasts: Over five million people watched the concerts live, pulling down over 175,000 simultaneous video streams, while word in the blogosphere was that watching the online shows was more fun than watching on TV.

No wonder CBS News wants a change of venue. With its evening broadcast news show in third place, executives are looking to the Web for some juice. CBS News said it its "cable bypass strategy" will move the focus of the news operation from television and radio to what it calls a "24-hour, on-demand news service, available across many platforms," with CBSNews.com as the hub.

"This major expansion of CBSNews.com is designed to capture an audience that is increasingly looking for news and information at all times of the day, not just during scheduled periods, and using the Internet for that purpose," Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media, said in a statement.

The news service will include a blog and The EyeBox, an on-page video player providing news clips on demand, including video that hasn't yet been broadcast over the network. The site will feature original news reporting, commentary and analysis, while reporters, correspondents and anchors will produce features.

Amazon.com is building up its content delivery infrastructure with the help of Nine Systems to get ready for its tenth anniversary concert featuring Bob Dylan and Norah Jones, to be held July 16 in Seattle. Nine Systems will encode, upload and stream concert footage for live viewing from the Amazon.com home page; replays will be available for 24 hours after the three-hour show.

AOL has gone into production in an even bigger way, building on the success of its Live 8 sponsorship. Network Live, led by Kevin Wall, the executive producer of those concerts, will produce a slate of live programming including music and comedy shows at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which is operated by AEG.

The venture aims to eventually offer live entertainment 24/7, delivered to AOL properties including AOL.com and AOL Music Sessions, as well as to XM's Artist Confidential and Then...Again...Live!

Meanwhile, search services including Blinkx, MSN and Google are jostling to get into the world of entertainment that the broadcast and cable companies used to have locked down.

"Until recently, insufficient bandwidth to homes, combined with the entertainment industry's grip on content licensing, made home entertainment unattractive to the big Internet players. Now, both those conditions are changing," said ABI Research analyst Vamsi Sistla.

Sistla pointed out that video uploaded by consumers to video search services on Yahoo, MSN and Google provided almost real-time footage of the London bombings last week. He sees these video search services expanding into paid video-on-demand offerings within the next three years.

Meanwhile, he said, Amazon.com and eBay will add video downloads to their offerings to build new sources of revenue and maintain relationships with customers. For example, when Amazon.com sells a copy of "The Da Vinci Code," it could offer paid downloads of videos about Rome or the Vatican.

"They've already established themselves as premier digital brands," he said. "Now, they're about to change the video broadcast industry."

Look out, NBC and ABC.