CBS's New Digital Dealmaker
Today, CBS will announce the hiring of Silicon Valley dealmaker Quincy Smith to its L.A. digital headquarters, hoping that he's the guy who will find and buy the next YouTube before it's as big as YouTube, as CBS president Leslie Moonves has said.
Smith comes from investment bankers Allen & Co., where he brokered deals involving high-tech properties such as Google, AOL, Yahoo and CNet. At CBS, he will be expected to know which digital companies are up-and-comers, which would help CBS with its businesses -- TV, radio, online and outdoor advertising -- and how much to offer for them.
Smith's hire is the latest counterpunch among the big TV networks, as each tries to be more digital than the next:
Whack! ABC sells shows on iTunes.
Bap! Fox sells episodes of "The Simpsons" on cell phones.
Sock! NBC rolls out "NBC 2.0."
Pow! CBS hires rainmaker.
Smith replaces Larry Kramer -- a former Washington Post editor and Marketwatch.com founder -- who will stay on as an adviser. CBS likes Kramer, but believes Smith has more Silicon Valley experience and connections. At the same time, Kramer's CBS Digital Media becomes Smith's CBS Interactive.
CBS has already put some of its shows on Innertube, the network's online content site, and did some online-only companion content for its TV show, "Jericho." It has struck deals to sell its shows on Apple's iTunes and show clips on Yahoo and YouTube. With Smith aboard -- and working closely with CBS Mobile head Cyriac Roeding -- more is likely to come soon.
I talked to Smith on Friday night.
"I think this world is increasingly about interactivity," the mile-a-minute-talking Smith said. "It implies the audience has control over your content. You have to acknowledge that."
Smith sees such control as valuable audience research, using the example of CBS shows that are put on YouTube.
"Giving content to YouTube is fine, but how much can we learn about viewers from that?" Smith said. "What can we learn that will inform the ... television producers when they go back to do the next sitcom?"
When CBS offered an interview with Smith on Friday, the company also offered some phone time with Moonves, who is a journalist's quote-o-matic dream.
But when I told CBS that I was writing this for the blog but not the newspaper, they said, "Well, Les will talk to you only if it's for the paper."
Hmmm ... I thought. Not exactly digital-first thinking from the head of the very digital TV network. Guess I need some more digital juice, too.
As soon as Smith got on the phone, though, he laughed and proclaimed himself "very blog-friendly."
November 6, 2006; 12:01 AM ET
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