CBS: Creating a lab for mashups

While most of the major U.S. TV networks are struggling with the idea of YouTube and dipping their toes gingerly into new areas — such as streaming their new shows over the Interweb — CBS is pushing the envelope in a number of different ways. For example, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal, the network is setting up a site just for short-form video “mashups” and other content created both by CBS staff and by viewers.

The site, which is to be called EyeLab, is designed to appeal to Web surfers who have grown used to watching and sharing YouTube video clips or user-generated tributes to various mainstream shows — such as the collection of corny one-liners from CSI: Miami that a fan going by the name stewmurray47 put together and uploaded to YouTube. The clip has gotten more than a million views, which is enough to get a network executive drooling.

Steve Safran, who writes for the excellent TV blog Lost Remote, describes the conversation that he imagines taking place at CBS after someone mentions the David Caruso clip:

Executive Three: “You mean the thing I wanted pulled down from YouTube?

Executive One: “That’s the one. Anyway, it was a big hit.”

Executive Two: (Suddenly interested) “Oh. Really?”

Executive Three: How big?

Executive One: About one million views and counting.

(Executives Two and Three actually have $$ signs light up in their eyes)

According to the WSJ story, CBS has hired half a dozen video-editing twentysomethings to create mashups like the CSI: Miami clip — and the network also plans to find and distribute similar clips created by users and viewers as well. Hopefully CBS has contacted stewmurray47 about a job, since it was his clip that more or less gave the network the idea.

If CBS is looking for ways of using video clips to build audience interaction or interest in a show, it should take a look at what actor Adrian Pasdar is doing with behind-the-scenes video from the TV show Heroes. The actor, who plays one of the leading roles on the show, has uploaded to YouTube (using the name “buckshotwon”) dozens of clips of his fellow actors goofing around backstage, and each one gets between 15,000 and 20,000 views.

Whether CBS’s effort will be successful or not remains to be seen, but I think it is an interesting idea. Building a community around your content — or making it easy for people who enjoy that content in different ways to share it with each other — is one of the few tools that the TV networks have left (hopefully CBS will find ways of aggregating that content from wherever it is, rather than requiring everyone to sign up with yet another site).

Hat tip to LAist for the info about Pasdar and his video clips.

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