Since its founding in 1927, CBS has shifted with the mediums it has used to reach audiences. After finding success in both radio and television, the company is now faced with evolving the way it does business in a digital world. That’s a project overseen by Jim Lanzone, who joined CBS Interactive eight years ago and now serves as CEO of Interactive and Chief Digital Officer for CBS.
He oversees a portfolio of media brands (CNET, TV Guide and GameSpot) as well as the broadcaster’s direct-to-consumer products, which includes the video subscription services CBS All Access, CBS Sports HQ and CBS News.
Under Lanzone’s leadership, CBS Interactive’s audience has more than doubled, making it a top 10 Internet property. In addition to helping launch CBS’ streaming products, he has been credited for modernizing content creation, distribution and monetization efforts across CBS Interactive’s 25-plus brands.
We caught up with Lanzone to discuss CBS’ recent success in the digital space and how it’s using outside sites such as YouTube to increase its reach.
1. CBS recently ranked No. 7 on Comscore’s December list of top multi-platform companies — right under the likes of Google and Facebook. What has been key to the company’s strength in digital?
We’ve been lucky to have truly premium content at a time when there’s just a glut of content out there on the internet. It also helps to have things that are truly in demand by consumers and differentiated.
We also manage these content properties from a Silicon Valley product perspective rather than a pure media perspective. That’s allowed us to get out ahead of things like the transition to mobile and now the transition to connected TVs, which is a huge source of traffic growth as well.
2. What separates CBS from others on Comscore’s list?
We’re unique on that list in a couple ways. One is that we got that spot solely on the back of creating and distributing our own premium content, whereas everybody else in that list got there by being a search engine or social network.
The second is that we got there by being a house of premium brands. Some of those are CBS brands, some of them are under the window of CNET, which was a public company that was acquired by CBS in 2008. And under CNET we have brands like GameSpot, which is the No. 1 video games property online.
3. CBS predicts that All Access will have at least 4 million subscribers by the end of 2019, a 40 percent jump from August. What do you think will lead this growth: live programming, sports coverage or original content?
It’s a great question and the answer is all the above, with originals becoming a more and more important part of the balanced breakfast that we serve.
Original is a big and growing reason why people are subscribers to All Access. We just launched season two of “Star Trek: Discovery” a little over a week ago and we’ll have season three of “The Good Fight” coming up soon.
Additionally, being a multiplatform extension of the CBS network, consumers can watch CBS broadcast shows online to catch up. The platform also offers deeper content around those franchises. For example, right now we’re in the middle of “Big Brother” and we offer a 24/7 view of the “Big Brother” household and other additional features online.
4. CBS has capitalized on the success of “Star Trek” with a growing list of spinoff shows. Will this be similar with strategy with CBS’ other popular IP?
We’re very lucky to have such premium IP that we can leverage. I think these tentpoles are one part of a great original content strategy for us. And yeah, I think you can expect other announcements down that pathway.
It’s one of our advantages in an increasingly crowded marketplace and the right move for us to leverage it. But we’re also doing all kinds of other original shows and you’re going to continue to see CBS invest.
5. How important are social platforms like Facebook and Snapchat to the video strategies of CBS’ CNET, TVGuide and All Access?
We are too broad and diverse, and frankly too large of a company to have any one distribution point be mission critical.
We have experimented with social media companies in the past. We won a award for the James Corden integration at Snapchat, and we [re-distribute] our late-night shows and the news through Facebook Watch. And recently with YouTube, for the first time we are allowing people to see episode one, season two of “Star Trek: Discovery” for free.
But for us, we distribute in so many different places online and offline that social media by itself is not crucial.