In a marketing move, CBS launched a new Web site, EyeLab, that will allow consumers to create short-form clips by editing together content from CBS shows. Programming on the site will come from the network’s news and entertainment shows, as well as from sister cable channels CSTV and Showtime.
In describing the “next-generation studio,” CBS pointed to unidentified research showing that short-form clips are “among the most viewed videos on the Web.” The market dominance of YouTube, which showcases such short-form content, would seem to make that self-evident. In touting a short-form Web site of its own, CBS is aiming to get viewers into its own online tent to view such clips.
The network has experimented with various strategies for distributing content online, first promoting a video site of its own, Innertube, then deploying its own channels on YouTube and finally showcasing to advertisers and Wall Street something called the Interactive Audience Network -- essentially a group of Web sites through which it is syndicating its content.
While described in press materials as a digital “studio,” EyeLab will be more of a catch-all way for the network to aggregate mash-up clips of its content from both professionals and average consumers, digital chief Quincy Smith said.
CBS won’t solicit video clips through the rubrics of a contest, he said, but under the EyeLab banner, it will troll its own Web site and others like craigslist to find new video-producing talent and reach out to them about using their work. The network, he added, put about $500,000 into the project from its marketing and interactive budgets, deploying some part-time employees and repurposing others from its various digital divisions to shepherd the project.
The new short-form site’s launch comes as the new fall broadcast season is beginning and all of the networks continue trying to figure out how best to distribute, promote and monetize their content online. This one from CBS -- the last this season to make any major announcement on the matter -- diverged from those of its network brethren in promoting its distribution of short content, rather than full episodes, although the network has distributed full episodes online for some time.
ABC, for example, announced last week that it is pairing with AOL to stream full episodes of its shows. NBC, after having ended its relationship with iTunes, touted a new download service of its own, NBC Direct. Fox said it would give away free iTunes downloads of some of its shows. And The CW talked up plans to stream advance premieres on Yahoo.
This is the second year that networks have jockeyed for attention with such announcements as they head into the fall season. Last year, they all had similar digital initiatives to tout, whether it was ABC.com’s then-new streaming video player or plans from the others to stream video on their own or through partner Web sites.
But much as they talk up the moves with fanfare, the networks have been pretty consistent in their openness about not knowing whether any of it will make them much money. Disney-ABC Television Group president and Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney, for example, told B&C last week that the company’s digital plan was “still in its very early days,” citing as its main value not new revenue, but “learning more about our viewers and more about our delivery of content.”