Pontiac and CBS are teaming on what they call a "microseries" and "prime time programming experiment" and others might call an attempt at Tivo-foiling via some creative marketing, though it will also play to the podcast model of short bursts of programming.
A cliffhanger-type serialized short sponsored by Pontiac and integrating its new Torrent model into a few of the episodes (it's a micro-plug as well as a micro-series), will air in the first commercial break in CBS' 9 p.m. CSI: Miami starting Jan. 24 and continue at about the same time for the next seven of nine nights--excluding Saturday, Jan. 28, and Tuesday, Jan. 31.
CBS decided to skip Saturday since that is its night of a block of repurposed crime shows, and it preferred to put the series in fresh material. Jan. 31 is the president's State of the Union address.
Pontiac paid for the production costs of the shorts, which were co-produced by CBS and Plum Productions and Sam Swisher. Animator/conceptual artist Pete Pepe is creator and producer. But Pontiac did not pay for the time the series occupies on the schedule.
"The show is what it is," says Linda Rene, Senior VP, prime time sales, for CBS.
CBS took the idea to Pontiac, Rene says, and may take it to others if it is successful. Nielsen doesn't break-out ratings for 40-second shows, so the micro-series' rating will be the rating of the mothership show. But Rene says they have had internal discussions about breaking out micro-series ratings if the format proves a hit.
"I think it can be done," she says. "We have all agreed we love the format." She also says the network has been eyeing similar microseries, though not in the action-adventure area.
Rene says the series was not hatched with the idea of repurposing on wireless devices and that the technology's takeoff dovetailed with, but did not drive, its foray into short-short form.
The initial idea, Rene says, was to catch some eyeballs with a creative programming approach that would increase sampling to the mothership shows.
Pontiac will run a traditional commercial for the Torrent at the end of each nontraditional episode.
In fact, Rene calls the ad side of the program fairly standard--a time buy, 30 seconds per show, with production integration as part of the buy.
The Courier, which gives new meaning to the term "miniseries," will feature a mysterious man named iiro, played by the real Swedish BASE Jumper of the same name, who "races against time to uncover clues and perform a sequence of death-defying tasks [skydiving /daredevil jumping] in a desperate attempt to rescue his kidnapped wife."
BASE jumpers, with BASE standing for "building, antenna, span [bridge], earth," jump from fixed structures and free fall before opening their parachutes. The jumps in the shows were real, not computer-generated, and Rene says she is sure CBS did the due dillegence on the legality of the venues (some building owners and bridgekeepers frown on the practice).
The first episode will run a minute, the remainder 40 seconds.
But wait, there's more. CBS.com will feature additional info on the series (at www.the-courier.com), plus re-runs of the installments, fleshed out a bit, and a second storyline with clues that could win Web surfers their own Torrent. Rene says the Web traffic and contest participants will be another way to measure the success of the series.
The Courier will also be available on Verizon's V Cast wireless phone video service immediately after its network airings.