OLD Media Moves

Big plans for CNET

September 8, 2008

Ronald Grover of BusinessWeek writes about the plans new owner CBS has for online tech news service CNET, which it bought earlier this year.

CNETGrover writes, “Rambling through the CNET building, you see twentysomethings who work for Gamespot.com and sleep on cots in their office, or the geeks who crowd the newsroom at CNET. CNET appeals to an under-35 crowd, compared with those pushing 60 who currently watch CBS. Moonves intends to have the CBS ad folks take the CNET people on sales calls, and to get them ads from car, drug, and other companies that have so far skipped the online sites. ‘Our guys couldn’t find their way to [Proctor and Gamble’s headquarters in] Cincinnati,’ says CBS Interactive Chief Financial Officer Zander Lurie, who had the same job at the pre-CBS CNET. ‘That will change.’

“What’s not likely to change is the mountain of expectations that CBS still has to climb. CBS wanted CNET so badly that it raised its offer for the company three times, according to CNET’s financial statements. ‘We had a lot of companies who took a look at us,’ says former CNET Chairman Jarl Mohn, who rattles off companies like Walt Disney and Time Warner. ‘Only Leslie heard what we were saying.’

“So how does Moonves make the CNET deal pay? There will be some cost-cutting, he allows, but not much. CNET was making money already, and Moonves says the deal is immediately accretive to CBS. And with a total of 54 million monthly users to its sites, CBS is already a top 10 online player. But there’s a big upside if he can convince even more folks to come to the online screen, just like he did at the CBS network more than a decade ago. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. But don’t try to get in Moonves’ way while he figures it out.”

Read more here.

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