||What Broadcasters Are Doing: CBS Interactive's Lanzone Searches Digital Futures
What will CBS Interactive look like under the new direction of Jim Lanzone, founder and former CEO of the online video guide, Clicker?
"We're search guys," Lanzone tells Online Media Daily, referring to his team at Clicker, which was just acquired by CBS Interactive in conjunction with his appointment as president of the publisher. "We love the dynamics of the search marketplace, and we're bringing other world class technology with us, too, including social and personalization technology...and recommendation technology."
Lanzone is replacing Neil Ashe, who announced plans to leave CBS late last year and has served as president of CBS Interactive since it acquired CNET Networks in 2008.
Upon closing the deal, Clicker -- which was what Lanzone's father called the family remote control -- will join CBS Interactive's roster of Web properties, which include CNet.com, TV.com, CBS.com, CBSSports.com, CBSNews.com and Gamespot.com.
With its founder now in charge, however, don't expect Clicker to get lost in the mix. "Clicker is not a major acquisition for CBS (Interactive), but all of our technology can be applied" to the division's existing assets, Lanzone said.
Launched in late 2009, Clicker already claims 2.5 million monthly users, and an index of over 1 million online TV shows, movies and videos, from both free and paid services.
Of course, Lanzone acknowledges that Clicker's search, social, and recommendation-based offerings might not be a perfect fit with every CBS Interactive property. "I'll advocate natural law," he says. "If (adding Clicker technology to another CBS Interactive asset) makes sense, we will do it."
Up against a host of rivals from blinkx to Truveo, Clicker has sought to develop a next-generation programming guide, which can change dynamically based on events, categories and playlists.
According to industry insiders, CBS Interactive has been smart to align itself with forward-thinking, digital-minded companies -- first with CNet, and now with Clicker.
"Jim is obviously an Internet veteran who will be able to bring the Internet perspective to CBS...much like CNet management did when they were acquired by CBS," says Suranga Chandratillake, founder and CEO of blinkx. "Web-based video content...continue[s] to become more fragmented, so the need for services that can bring it all together is increasingly important."
While trading traditional ad dollars for digital dimes remains a concern, CBS tried to keep pace with new media trends. Last year, for instance, the company made its full slate of Web video available to iPad users.
More recently, CBS agreed to let Boxee sell TV episodes through its software platform beginning sometime this year. Lanzone assured on Friday that neither his appointment or CBS Interactive's acquisition of Clicker would affect that partnership.
"We don't compete with Boxee -- actually we're a partner of theirs," he said. "There are some similarities, but their focus is not on broad curation."
As an independent entity, Clicker raised $19 million from such investors as Benchmark and Redpoint. Financial terms of the acquisition are not being revealed.
Prior to Clicker, Lanzone spent seven years at Ask.com -- formerly Ask Jeeves -- landing the top spot as CEO before leaving the company in 2008.
(Source: Online Media Daily, 03/04/11)
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