CBSN’s Profitability Problem…

This is off topic as far as this blog’s charter goes but it’s of interest to me because I am a regular viewer of CBSN. TVNewsCheck’s Adam Buckman interviews CBS News President David Rhodes about the network’s digital offerings, with a very CBSN centric focus…

Rhodes said the core values and mission of CBS News are strong and the division is operating in the black. “We need to make money,” he said. More to the point, he added, “We need to not lose money.”

“Our daily operation is about broadcast journalism and video newsgathering and production. We have a large organization that’s set up around doing that activity globally in a high-quality way,” he said. “We have a variety of ways of monetizing that activity.”

CBSN is an interesting thing in what it does and how it does it. It is almost cable news like in how it programs. M-Fr, in the mornings it re-airs CBS This Morning with a one hour delay. It is then more or less live through 9 or 10pm ET with occasional re-airings of segements earlier in the day. On weekends it is more taped than live. There have been times when CBSN wasn’t live that I had tuned in hoping it was live. Commercials are somewhat infrequent for the Live broadcast but if you pick any segment that isn’t part of the “Live feed”…and by “Live feed” I mean whatever is currently airing under the “Live” banner whether truly live or not, you’ll get a commercial before you get the segment you picked.

Whenever I hear the term “monetizing” in regards to web streams I immediately think “more commercials” and that’s a tough sell. Web viewers are acclimated to the practice of airing one commercial before getting the content they selected so adding additional commercials will be a tough sell. Whenever I hear the phrase, “We need to not lose money” I think cutbacks; be they in infrastructure, the number of hours of live broadcasts, or getting cheaper talent…or at the very least talent that is amortized across a wider platform (read: not dedicated to CBSN).

Rhodes wasn’t very clear on how bad CBSN loses money or how he is looking to bridge that gap. So, as far as I’m concerned, nothing is off the table because Rhodes didn’t rule anything out other than an impending demise for the channel.

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