Peter Kafka

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CBS Digital Boss Quincy Smith Plans His Next Deal: His Own M&A Shop

quincy-smithQuincy Smith, who guided CBS through a series of big transactions during the Web 2.0 era, is planning his next deal: a move to start his own boutique investment bank or consultancy.

Smith is still running the CBS Interactive unit, a job he took in November 2006. But he has been telling associates recently that he plans to start his own company, possibly as soon as this summer.

Other people close to Smith say that his departure isn’t imminent and doesn’t have a fixed date and that he’s still working closely with CBS CEO Les Moonves. Here’s a statement from CBS spokesman Dana McClintock: “We decline to comment on rumor and speculation.”

If Smith does leave CBS (CBS) to put out his own shingle as a dealmaker, the move would make sense because that’s what he did prior to joining Moonves and co. His last job was at media banking heavyweight Allen & Co., where he put together a slew of Silicon Valley tie-ups, including Google’s (GOOG) $1.6 billion pickup of YouTube in 2006.

People close to Smith says he often talks of trying to emulate Dan Case, the late brother of AOL founder Steve Case and the former CEO of Hambrecht & Quist, the dominant Silicon Valley investment bank during the first Web boom.

Smith’s departure also make sense for another reason: CBS no longer needs a deal guy to run its digital operations. Like just about every other big media company, it is still trying to digest the deals it made during the last boom–most notably, online music service Last.fm, which it bought for $280 million in 2007, and CNET, which it bought for $1.8 billion last year.

In addition to M&A, Smith has also been overseeing the network’s online video strategy, which is different from its broadcast competitors: While GE’s (GE) NBC, News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox and now, Disney’s (DIS) ABC have all come together to offer their programming exclusively through the Hulu joint venture, CBS passed on a Hulu deal and has cut its own pacts with a variety of Web distributors.

Smith, backed by Moonves, has argued that CBS is better off selling ads for its online inventory instead of ceding it to the likes of Hulu. And with some notable exceptions–like the March Madness college basketball tournament–the network has been more reluctant than its peers to put much of its premier programming online. It’s still too early to tell which strategy will work best for the broadcasters, and it may take years to get a real answer.


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