The Web site www.iBelieve.com was eager to advertise on the high-profile network miniseries, but CBS rejected the ads on the grounds that their content is too similar to the program and might confuse viewers. The two-part TV program begins Sunday night.
At the same time, the Grand Rapids-based Web merchant says it is being courted by www.CBS.com to sponsor online sites for ``Jesus'' and the ``Touched by an Angel'' series.
CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said there is nothing inconsistent about one CBS division rejecting advertising while another pursued it.
``This is a very big company with many different types of guidelines,'' he said. ``There are distinct differences between broadcast television and Internet.''
He said the TV ads were rejected because they would commercialize the show and were not ``consistent with the expectations of a diverse audience.'' The ban extends to the ``Touched by an Angel'' TV series for the same reason, he said.
The iBelieve ad offers viewers a free Christian music CD if they register at iBelieve's Web site, which features a mix of Christian merchandise and content. The ad originally featured Christian music, but iBelieve removed it in hopes of getting it aired.
IBelieve.com executives questioned whether they are being held to a double standard. They cited Nike ads that aired on CBS during the college basketball tournament featuring ``Bracketville,'' a fictional community with a name that plays upon the brackets used to organize tournaments.
But McClintock said it's unfair to compare CBS's rules for sports and entertainment programming and said ads are accepted or rejected on a case-by-case basis.
``Each of the networks has a code of practices and these have been in place for years,'' said Wally Snyder, president of the American Advertising Federation, an industry group. ``I've never heard many complaints.''
IBelieve was prepared to pay $450,000 to run two ads during ``Jesus''--a relatively small amount in the world of network advertising, said Al Ries, a Roswell, Ga., marketing consultant.
``If they were a big advertiser, believe me, they'd work something out,'' he said. The network division responsible for this ``wouldn't have a job unless they rejected something. And it's nice to reject a teeny advertiser and not lose much money.''
IBelieve.com hasn't given up yet. The Web merchant is considering advertising on the CBS programs that lead into the miniseries and is hopeful a compromise can be reached.
``We feel like the Internet start-up David standing up to the media-conglomerate Goliath,'' said John Nardini, who heads iBelieve's marketing.