CBS shifts dotcom ops

No layoffs are expected as network reorganizes Internet effort
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CBS, following in the wake of News Corp., CNN and NBC, is changing the relationship between its television and Internet operations. CBS.com and CBSNews.com will no longer operate independently of CBS Television.

In a memo sent to employees last Thursday, CBS Television President and CEO Les Moonves said, "This new organization will make sure that the symbiotic relationship between broadcast and online will be explored and exploited to the fullest extent." Other Internet properties associated with CBS, including Sportsline and Marketwatch, are unaffected by the restructuring.

Despite the layoffs throughout the dotcom industry, Moonves assured employees that no jobs would be cut. "The overall staffing requirements will remain basically unchanged. We have a lot of work to do, and we believe we have a terrific team on hand to do it."

Michael Goodman, senior analyst at The Yankee Group, a Boston-based business research firm, thinks the move is a smart one. "Our point of view was that it never made any sense to have these Internet units as independent structures," he explained. "Sure, it helps to develop a sense of individuality, but you lose all your synergies."

Under the new management relationships within CBS Television, entertainment elements of CBS.com report directly to Nancy Tellem, president, CBS Entertainment. David Katz, vice president, strategic planning and interactive ventures, takes on daily management of this operation. CBSNews.com has been placed under CBS News President Andrew Heyward; John Frazee, vice president, news services, and Betsy Morgan, vice president, business development, share responsibility for the day-to-day online news content. Also, online sales are integrated with CBS network sales under Joe Abruzzese, president of ad sales. All will stay in close contact with Viacom Interactive Ventures to ensure that all online efforts are in synch across the company.

According to Goodman, there's a risk of overreacting while Internet operations find their proper place within media companies.

Moonves is careful not to undervalue the importance of the Web sites. Still, this recasts the Internet from co-star to supporting player. "This management change," he said, "recognizes the role of our proprietary online entities as important, value-added partners."

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