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Innovative ''Television'': CBS's EyeLab

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All marketers hope to find the key that will allow them to connect more effectively with their desired markets. And when it comes to television, this aspiration is becoming increasingly urgent. As more eyes go from televisions to computer screens, network executives everywhere are trying to create the next best thing that will enable them to once again engage viewers.

To combat what CBS sees as viewers’ increasingly short attention spans, the network announced on September 28 that it was launching CBS EyeLab, a digital production studio that will produce short montages of CBS’s most popular programs.

For CBS, this is yet another attempt to connect with consumers online. Initially, the network created a website, Innertube, to promote its content, and then took it one step further when they created CBS channels for YouTube. These channels provided content that was specially approved by the station and included clips from popular programs such as Survivor, The Late Show with David Letterman, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.



According to CBS Interactive President, Quincy Smith, research conducted by the network has shown that as little as one-third of their audience desires to watch entire television programs online. So, in response to this finding, and to better compete for viewers currently transfixed by video-sharing sites such as YouTube, the videos will be compiled in a manner that makes them look like user-generated content, while still serving as marketing tools to promote the shows and the network.

Within the past year and a half, television networks used clips of their most popular shows only as ways in which to promote them to viewers. However, as the recent YouTube phenomenon took hold and became more popular, marketers began to better appreciate this opportunity and began viewing the trend as a way to gain new viewers. Many networks, for instance, began posting entire shows on their websites, attempting to draw fans that may have missed the program when it originally aired.

But they haven’t stopped there. Other stations have recently announced their plans to better connect with online users as well, though none are going to the same lengths as CBS. Fox announced that it would allow online users to download some programming from iTunes for free, whereas The CW discussed allowing Yahoo to show advanced presentations of shows. ABC and AOL teamed up to feature full episodes of that network’s popular programs. And, in an attempt to play up its offerings after terminating a relationship with iTunes, NBC developed NBC Direct, a site that allows users to download their shows.

Interestingly, EyeLab was inspired by a YouTube clip, not a CBS executive. “Endless Caruso One Liners,” a compilation of CSI: Miami star David Caruso’s catchphrases at crime scenes, was posted by a 27-year-old British man on YouTube. The seven-minute clip was such a success and fan favorite that it was eventually viewed more than one million times.

Seeing an opportunity in this online video movement, CBS created EyeLab to lead viewers to their own site, instead of someone else’s. In addition to clips made by the six member EyeLab team, which thus far include a vampire montage to promote the new show Moonlight and an assemblage of high-five outtakes from How I Met Your Mother, users will also be given the opportunity to create their own mash-ups.

George Schweitzer, President of CBS Marketing, had this to say about the CBS EyeLab: “It turns our promotion into content. The clips about CSI or something from how a director shoots a scene in the show NUMB3RS-these are all things that link back to our shows.”

There is one obvious similarity to television that remains, however: as in traditional programming, advertisements will be incorporated into the clips.
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