CBS Enlists Viewers to Promote Content

These days, short-form videos of the kind found on Google’s YouTube are considered crucial in promoting network TV shows. The problem for television networks is that once content hits YouTube and other third-party sites, it’s no longer under network control.

Today, CBS offered a solution to the problem, calling it EyeLab.

It’s a Web-based editing studio, aimed at enabling fans and others to create short-form Web videos using CBS content that will promote the network’s shows. The videos are to be distributed across CBS Interactive platforms, including and CBS Mobile. On the EyeLab site, users will have access to clips from CBS News, Sports, Entertainment, Late Night and Daytime programming, as well as from CBS properties CSTV and Showtime.

In addition to clips edited by fans of CBS programming, EyeLab will distribute short form content edited by CBS television producers as well as a group of online Web video editors employed by CBS.

“Using the Web as a direct engagement platform with those who care the most about the show is a perfect way to bring the TV experience online and in turn, to learn from fans,” said Anthony Zuiker, Executive Producer and Creator of CBS’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation franchise, in a statement.

The news continues efforts by major television networks — particularly NBC — to aggressively pursue new Web distribution and marketing strategies. CBS’ network rivals ABC and NBC both recently announced plans to offer full episodes from their TV shows on the Internet.

Earlier this month, NBC Universal also unveiled NBC Direct, a new service to allow users to download shows and watch them up to a week after their original broadcast. NBC is also part of a joint venture with News Corp to form a video distribution network for premium content. The joint venture, recently named Hulu, will go into a public beta this October.

NBC also sells its TV shows ad-free. After a public spat with Apple, however, its shows are now available through Amazon’s Unbox service and not iTunes.

The Disney-ABC Television Group has since followed suit, this week offering full-length episodes of its primetime shows for free through AOL.

CBS too offers full episodes online, but it still plans to use the Internet as a different kind of promotional medium, President of CBS Marketing George Schweitzer said in statement.

“Online video is not just about TV shows as we know them, and EyeLab content is not for TV,” Schweitzer said. “We can harness the passion and creativity of our shows’ biggest fans, and also learn a lot about their interests and talents.”

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