During the CBS Q4 earnings call, CEO Leslie Moonves offered TV.com’s relaunch as an example of how CBS Interactive is doing post-CNET Networks acquisition: “It’s clearly going to be a very, very big player in what is clearly a fast-growing category.” The numbers sound great — TV.com has added thousands of video and is delivering more than five times the number of video streams it had a year ago — and would sound even better if it weren’t for the tiny little problem the site is having right now delivering shows from NBC, Fox or any other content it received from Hulu. The analysts, on the other hand, were more concerned with matters like slashed dividends and the like, which offers a clue or two about how important this is in the overall scheme of things for CBS — as in not close to material.
Meanwhile, I’m hearing that Hulu claims the relaunch is material enough to merit reopening the contract, which was set with CNET before it was acquired by CBS (NYSE: CBS). NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) and News Corp (NYSE: NWS). tried to get CBS on board early in the video JV’s life but CBS didn’t want in pre-announcement or pre-launch — and has resisted efforts since. As recently as December, execs familiar with the situation told me they expected there would be a deal eventually. The relaunch of TV.com seemed like a good opportunity but it may be that the pre-existing CNET deal with Hulu also provided a little false security about how long CBS Interactive could take. Will this backfire on Hulu, now in the midst of its first TV advertising campaign? Maybe they can blame it on aliens.