Tuning In to Yahoo!

When it comes to TV, it's becoming clear that there are going to be more and more avenues for consumers who want their content served up in many ways. Media companies continue to try out new ways to approach content distribution, particularly in the field of television. On Tuesday, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) and Viacom's (NYSE: VIA  ) CBS announced that two of its shows will be distributed through Yahoo!'s site, marking another means to gain audience and capitalize on current trends in digital content distribution.

There are some caveats here, though -- just two episodes of two shows (How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men) will be distributed. The episodes will be available free of charge and will also be commercial free. However, in light of recent developments in this area, there's little that's incredibly exciting about this agreement between the two companies. Not only is the content limited, but they're all "encore" presentations, meaning that fans of the shows have already seen the episodes. The initiative will last only a week.

It's been interesting to watch digital distribution of video content gain steam over recent months -- and quickly, too. Disney's (NYSE: NWS  ) ABC network chose to distribute the creme de la creme of its content via Apple's iTunes, for a fee of $1.99 per episode. General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) NBC doesn't seem to be too much in the game yet, although it does allow for replay of its Nightly News over the Internet. And of course, it shouldn't have been lost on anyone that Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) plan to distribute classic television shows over America Online was yet another nod to the rising popularity of video over the Internet.

It's obvious that on-demand distribution is gaining steam, and the current state of affairs was spurred on by the time-shifting elements of digital video recorders like Stock Advisor pick TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO  ) . Meanwhile, it's clear that the television networks are starting to get the idea that people want more options. Whether it's watching a show on a TV enabled with a DVR, the Internet, an iPod, Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) PSP, or other portable device, the end result is the same -- viewers can watch the content they want, when they want it, and in whatever medium they want it.

That said, this particular plan from CBS and Yahoo! just pays lip service to the idea, seeing as how, for the time being, it's only allowing viewers to taste two episodes of just two shows. Meanwhile, it's interesting that such CBS hits as its CSI series of shows are missing from the roster. (It's worthwhile to note that CBS streamed episodes of its show Threshold from its own website earlier this year.)

If anything, this deal with CBS gives Yahoo! the opportunity to distribute more content -- Yahoo! has been making moves in that direction recently, although TV content seems to have been limited to clips and outtakes -- and gives CBS a vehicle to expand its audience for the shows in question. In that regard, this initiative looks like savvy marketing for both parties. However, it seems a guarantee that more interesting developments in the digital distribution arena are sure to come, and likely sooner than later.

Time Warner and TiVo areMotley Fool Stock Advisorpicks. To find out what other companies David and Tom Gardner have selected for the service in recent history, click here for a 30-day free trial.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.


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