Internet or Die Interview

Marc DeBevoise, President and COO, CBS Interactive

CBS started out by taking radio by storm, and it’s still innovating in the digital age. We spoke with Marc DeBevoise, President and COO of CBS Interactive, about how the company continually creates top-notch digital content and finds new ways to distribute it.

With its suite of marquee websites and premium content, CBS Interactive has done an excellent job of standing out as an innovator in a crowded digital landscape. What decisions were made internally at CBS Interactive that paved the way for this success?

CBS Interactive has become a perennial top 10 Internet company (#6 overall the last few months) by focusing on delivering premium content in key verticals, with one of our key differentiators, and something core to our CBS heritage, being our ability to make and distribute premium video.

The CBS-branded digital properties may be the more obvious ones under the CBS Interactive umbrella mostly driven from the content of our core network divisions of Entertainment (CBS.com, CBS App, CBS All Access), News (CBSNews.com, CBSN), and Sports (CBSSports.com, CBS Sports Fantasy, 247Sports.com, MaxPreps.com). In addition, we also have a stable of category-leading sites in other key verticals, like tech with CNET, media with TVGuide.com and Metacritic, gaming with Gamespot, and many more.

Our focus on premium content across our properties has been key to CBS Interactive becoming the largest and only pure-play premium content provider in the top 10 U.S. web properties.

In the past five years, has there been a specific change in digital storytelling on the Internet that’s helped get CBS Interactive to where it is today?

Yes and no. Yes, in that short-form content now has a true distribution mechanism in the Internet and people are consuming substantial amounts of video content on mobile devices and tablets—video that doesn’t fit traditional formats. Look at The Late Late Show’s “Carpool Karaoke” series, for example. But great stories are still being told in half-hour and hour-long formats (meaning like TV); it’s just that new platforms, like OTT devices, mobile, tablets, and laptops, have played a key role in their distribution and consumption like they never have before over the past five years. People now have the opportunity to engage in content anywhere, anytime and, now, any way that they want.

Last year, CBS Interactive’s “Carpool Karaoke” won two Webby People’s Voice Awards and five of its sites were honored. Congrats! Do you have specific strategies for success when it comes to creating award-winning work?

We build our sites and properties with our consumers’ interests in mind and at the core of all that is providing great content in a great user experience. We’re thrilled to have gotten as many Webbys as we did last year—especially the People’s Voice Awards—it’s great to know series like “Carpool Karaoke” and our other sites and apps are resonating with audiences.

The Internet changes so rapidly that it’s essential to keep innovating to stay relevant (hence our theme, “Internet Or Die”). How do you handle that pressure and what does it look like “to Internet” at CBS Interactive?

It’s one of the things that makes our job so exciting! At a high level, we’re committed to offering our fans the content they want wherever and whenever they want it and are constantly evaluating new platforms, technologies, and types of experiences. As our CEO Leslie Moonves said early in 2016, “We are no longer just a TV Network. CBS is a next generation content company that develops premium content and delivers it to every platform.”

As CBS Interactive grows, how will it continue to play in the Internet’s evolution? VR or augmented reality experiences, perhaps?

We’ve already been experimenting with VR—take the 360 video with the cast of Hamilton leading up to the TONYs this year as one example. At CNET, they’re experimenting with the next gen of home tech by building out a complete smart home in Louisville, a real-life testing environment full of the bleeding edge in tech products.

We will always be looking to tell the right stories, on the right platforms, to deliver for audiences.

What makes a digital project like “Carpool Karaoke” stand out? And as a leader in your field, are there other viral hits that really caught your attention?

James Corden is an incredible talent in his own right and the show has partnered with the best artists in the music industry to participate in the series. Singing in the car is something we’ve all been guilty of doing—what’s more fun than watching your favorite artist do the same?

I think most of the CBS Television Networks’ Late Night talent is really what I loved in 2016. Especially with the election and political environment, there was plenty to talk about.

What emerging digital trend are you most excited about right now and how do you see it changing the future of your business and the Internet as a whole?

I mentioned OTT devices already, but I think we’ll only see more proliferation and better technology and viewing experiences in the next year. I think that gets me the most excited industry-wide. For us, I’m excited about our launch of CBS All Access’s first original drama series, The Good Fight, on February 19. It’s a new edition of The Good Wife, also created by Robert and Michelle King, and the show is everything fans loved about The Good Wife with an even more premium feel.

A big thanks to Marc DeBevoise for sharing his take on the state of digital media. Unless you live in a cave, you’re probably familiar with “Carpool Karaoke.” But make sure to check out CBS Interactive’s many other offerings, like The Good Fight, coming February 19th.

Stay tuned for more interviews with our Internet Or Die partners for the 21st Annual Webby Awards, and don’t snooze on the upcoming Extended Entry Deadline—Friday, January 27th, 2017. Enter today!

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