TV.com loses prime TV shows; CBS won’t say why – David Chartier

18 02 2009

From ARS Technica

TV.com’s December 2008 metamorphosis from a water cooler around which TV fans could chat into a full-scale content portal meant that it had to cut a few deals with competitors and studios, such as Hulu and PBS, to bring in more shows. Now, some of these outside shows have begun disappearing from the CBS-owned portal. Ars spoke with a CBS Interactive spokesperson about why shows on TV.com are going dark.

CBS was originally invited to join in on Hulu’s launch by the joint venture’s parent companies, NBC and FOX. CBS declined, opting to forge its own content licensing deals with other outlets and to launch its own portal with TV.com.

For its property’s rebirth, CBS did license a healthy chunk of content from Hulu (including Family Guy and Heroes), along with shows from other studios like MGM, PBS, and Sony Pictures Television.

Everything was going well with the site after the relaunch; CBS recently reported a 263 percent increase in unique viewers, a whopping 1,261 percent increase in streams, and a corresponding 4,435 percent increase in viewed minutes. So why is so much of the full content now disappearing?

Before the redesign, TV.com’s claim to fame was its 16 million monthly unique visitors who chatted about the week’s events in their favorite shows, stayed on top of industry news, and watched short video clips. CNET launched TV.com in 2005, which moved to CBS after the company acquired CNET in 2008.

TV-dot-comFamilyGuy.jpg The mystery of the vanishing content Shows such as FOX’s Family Guy and PBS’ NOVA—are disappearing from TV.com. Where full episodes once were, only a disappointing “video unavailable” message remains. The “full episode” links on the site still lead to a full list of episodes for each show—the episodes just do not work.

A CBS Interactive spokesperson confirmed to Ars that “Hulu did pull down their content” but would not say why or whether it would be coming back anytime soon. CBS Interactive’s spokesperson sounded genuinely surprised to hear that shows from other studios, such as PBS, had gone MIA as well, suggesting that either it may not have been the studio’s doing or it had simply happened quite recently.

The likely explanations for Hulu pulling its content are either a squabble over licensing and revenue, or CBS making a decision to bypass Hulu content altogether. CBS reportedly gets only 10 percent of TV.com ad revenue from shows licensed from Hulu, so it may be able to get a better deal by directly licensing this content from the studios.

In any event, in the short term, “video unavailable” is never a good way to greet new users who are hungry for entertainment.

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