Xceed, CBS in Deal for Program Sites

CBS Entertainment is looking to Web shop Worldwide Xceed Group to promote
some of its programs online, according to terms of a deal announced
Thursday.

New York-based Xceed said its previous work for CBS — which includes
sites for Survivor: The Australian Outback, and CSI: Crime Scene
Investigation — set the stage for an expanded deal.

Spokespeople from Xceed and CBS Entertainment, a division of CBS
Television, declined to describe terms of the deal in detail, although they
categorized it as a long-term, multiple project agreement.

New sites developed by the firm would likely emulate the existing
Survivor and CSI sites, which include show updates, character profiles and
video clips. The Survivor site also provides polls, chat, a set tour, and
shopping, while the CSI site uses Flash to allow users to “browse” the CSI
team’s case files.

Xceed said it would continue to integrate CBS’s branding, creative
vision, and content into sites it designs — leveraging its own core
competencies in digital strategy, technology, and design. Under the
agreement, Xceed also will provide analysis of all CBS sites, measuring and
tracking site trends and effectiveness in generating traffic and repeat
visits.

For Xceed, which in recent months has been coping with slowing client
spending by pairing down its operations and refocusing on specific vertical
industries, it’s good news amid a series of grim announcements. In addition
to a sagging valuation that thus far has failed to rise above the $1 per
share price — despite a recent reverse stock split — the company is facing
several class-action suits from angry shareholders.

“We’ve said for a while that our goal was to concentrate on key clients
in a limited number of verticals, and certainly, entertainment is one,” said
Xceed chief executive Howard Tullman. “With clients in hospitality and
healthcare, I would say this is exactly where we want to be, a long-term
relationship in a multi-year deal with leaders in these various spaces. It
really doesn’t serve our purpose to do just ‘one-off’ projects for random
clients.”

The deal also aligns Xceed with a media giant that has a fairly
restrained plan for its online properties. Disney, for instance, has
continued to waffle on its stance on its expensive Go.com portal. CBS, on
the other hand, has shied away from major online investments, with the
closest thing to a CBS portal being its stake in iWon.com (purchased for $30
million in cash and $70 million in media), and interests in niche sites like
CBS Marketwatch.com, CBS Sportsline and CBS Healthwatch by Medscape.

“Of the various media companies, they’ve been among the people who were
smartest about not over-investing in … the Internet, and that’s proven to
be very effective for them,” Tullman said. “Now we’re helping them move in
to next phase.”

“We’re going to have a continuing, long-term relation with them to
develop sites across many of their properties and work very closely with
them to do things I’d characterize as cross media initiatives,” he added.
“That’s where we think a lot of things happening in digital space going
forward. We think they’re among the guys moving most quickly and
intelligently in the space.”

Of course, the agreement is also a sizable validation for Xceed —
especially in light of the fact that it means CBS won’t be using the
internal interactive services unit of its parent, Viacom, which has designed
sites for Nick at Nite and the Sundance Channel.

“We’ve worked with [Xceed] before, but this new agreement is more
far-reaching and longer term,” said CBS spokesman Dana McClintock. “We’re
working with them on the most high-profile sites that CBS ever had. They’re
the partners we want to work with going forward, building out other sites
with much of our programming.”

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