CBS has announced the creation of the CBS Interactive Audience Network in association with a number of leading online video distributors. They include established players AOL, Microsoft, CNET and Comcast, together with new distribution networks Joost, Bebo, Brightcove, Netvibes, Sling Media and Veoh. CBS claims it will be the most widely distributed professional programming provider on the web.

Shows available will include CSI, the Late Show and the evening news, as well as archive material. Programmes will be free to consumers within the United States, supported by advertising. Selected clips and full-length sports programming will also be distributed worldwide. Akamai will provide the content delivery network.

“Today marks an important step in our strategy to distribute content broadly across the online interactive landscape on an open, non-exclusive basis,” said Leslie Moonves, the president and chief executive of CBS Corporation. “Each of these partners offers value to our audience and our advertisers, who can now come to CBS not only for the most watched network on television, but for the most widely distributed professional content online.”

“CBS’s ability to partner with leading next-generation interactive platforms is the best way for CBS to evolve from a content company to an audience company,” said Quincy Smith, the president of CBS Interactive. “It’s really all about the user and in building the CBS Interactive Audience Network, we are bringing our content to each unique platform of their choice. In remaining open to all online distributors and community builders — big and small — we can learn more about our existing audience, be exposed to new ones, and flexibly cater to their changing consumption habits.”

As well as established online players, like AOL and Microsoft, the CBS Interactive network will be available on new platforms, such as Joost and Brightcove.

“Joost is a long-term solution for content owners seeking to expand their audiences in the online world. A state-of-the-art global distribution platform, Joost is the perfect place for CBS to offer its channels, brands and premium programming to online audiences,” said Yvette Alberdingkthijm, responsible for content strategy and acquisition at Joost.

CBS is the first broadcast network to join Joost, which offers full screen streaming of video over a secure peer-to-peer network. Janus Friis, founder of Joost said: “Being able to offer Joost viewers award-winning CBS content is extremely exciting for Joost both because it’s a testament to the value we offer our content partners and because it ensures that our viewers are going to have a trusted source to view their new favorites as well as classics.”

“The CBS commitment to open and broad distribution across the Web marks another major milestone in the evolution of Internet TV,” said Jeremy Allaire, the chairman and chief executive of Brightcove, which is establishing a broadband video distribution network.

CBS will also provide distribution through Sling Media, creator of the SlingBox. “CBS is proving they are a leader in the digital media space by embracing new platforms for content distribution,” said Jason Hirschhorn, president of the Sling Media Entertainment Group. “The announcement is an example of true ubiquity as evidenced by the cast of both new and established partners.”

CBS had previously provided some shows through Google Video. At the CES show in January 2006, CBS president Leslie Moonves described the conjunction of CBS and Google as the “unprecedented coming together of these two great names”. The result, in the form of a CBS page on the Google Video web site was unfortunately far from impressive.

The announcement of a range of non-exclusive distribution partners is a far more significant recognition of how online distribution of video programming may develop. CBS has said that it does not want to have an exclusive distribution relationship with any single party, adding that the world does not need another portal.

Rival network NBC recently announced plans to launch a new internet video property in conjunction with News Corporation, with distribution partners including AOL, MSN, MySpace and Yahoo!. CBS is understood to still be talking to NBC Universal about a distribution deal.