Social networking website Bebo today announced it has teamed up with the likes of CBS, MTV, BBC, Channel 4 and BSkyB to offer premium content to its users.

From today, Bebo users will have access to thousands of hours of programming from some of the world's largest media firms - as well as smaller independent production companies - through their Bebo profiles.

Bebo's Open Media offering lets you change the skin of your page to show your favourite TV series, for example, and add your favourite video clips and TV episodes straight to your profile for others to see.

When you choose a favourite media channel, program or band, you'll get automatic recommendations about new content and similar programming that you might also like.

New ways to explore web content

"It's about creating a new, legitimate way for people to explore and experience content on the internet," said Joanna Shields, president of Bebo.

"Having a friend recommend something personally is so much more powerful, and you're more likely to watch it if you know your friend really likes a show."

Content providers will not be charged to add content to the Open Media platform, and they can distribute content using their own video players, such as the BBC's iPlayer. Advertising is retained as it is with normal TV programming, meaning you'll get advertising messages before every clip you watch.

Among the launch partners are CBS, the BBC, Channel 4, ITN, and BSkyB, as well as emerging media companies like Next New Networks, Crackle, JibJab, SumoTV, FabChannel, Last.fm, and Premium TV. Bebo added more firms, including ITV, will be added in the coming months.

Social media network

At today's launch event at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts ( BAFTA) HQ in London, Joanna Shields told us that Open Media represents a significant departure from the focus of other social networks. She likened rival social networking website Facebook to a BlackBerry device while Bebo is a fully fledged Apple iPod touch in terms of its media capabilities.

"The spectrum of social networking is evolving beyond utilities and applications. Bebo is a 'social media network' where culture and content come together and people use media and entertainment as a means of self-expression.

"As of today, Bebo becomes the first social network to open its doors to all media companies, bringing the richness of the media and entertainment world to our fast growing community of 40 million users," Shields added.