I’m seated on in a second-tier balcony at Carnegie Hall, a location that CBS Corp. President/CEO Les Moonves references as metaphor for “the orchestra of media offerings” the company is presenting to advertisers. Given the impact of the dismal economy and the writers strike, the company is highlighting radio, outdoor and digital to buttress the upfront’s traditional focus on TV. Late, Late Show host Craig Ferguson served as emcee after Moonves exited, and like Jimmy Kimmel at ABC’s upfront yesterday, he took a few shots at NBC (minor laugh: “I was congratulated by a homeless guy for beating Conan O’Brien in the ratings, I asked him how he knew that and he responded, ‘I’m president of NBC.’”).
– All Britney.com: Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, took the stage to say he would be the one to introduce the network’s fall programming lineup. “What’s on in the fall? Whatever show you want. Anytime, anyplace any screen you want.” Smith then rattled off a set of stats meant to drive home the network’s digital strength: the network is number one season pass on iTunes, number one app on Facebook with the CBSSports’ March Madness feature, and the number two channel on YouTube (Afterward, I spoke with Smith who added, “That’s not something we talk about much” because of the copyright issues. “The two minute clips we’re doing of CSI is great platform for that.”) and Nielsen and Hitwise said we’re number one in engagement this morning. “We have the most content online of any other network. How I Met Your Mother had 9.7 million broadcast viewers when Britney Spears guest-starred on the show in March and that translated into 400,000 streams and 2.7 million clips featuring Britney, which were shared by viewers. Those episodes are like liquid crack from my vantage point. We will ask Britney to be on every show we have. Coming soon: CSI: Britney.com. Her appearances are still melting servers.”
– Tapping LonelyGirl’s magic: As he left the stage, Smith briefly mentioned the network’s deal with EQAL, the creators of the YouTube hit LonelyGirl15. The partnership, while non-exclusive, gives CBS a “first look” in terms of collaborating on concepts developed by EQAL. The company will also serve as a consulting partner to CBS by helping it figure out ways of extending TV storytelling to online and mobile. And, on top of the consulting arrangement with CBS’ writers and producers, EQAL will also provide the entire technology infrastructure to host the online shows. (More details in this release)
– Update: EQAL and CBS will be announcing two shows within the next few weeks. Network sources who didn’t want to be named said the first two programs to get the EQAL treatment are CSI and Dexter. I spoke with EQAL co-founders Miles Beckett, CEO, and Greg Goodfried, president and COO, about the challenges of bridging broadcast and broadband, as well as the details surrounding the company’s relationship with CBS (NYSE: CBS). More after the jump
– Growing communities: While the agreement gives CBS the “first look” option on new online programming that EQAL creates, the deal will initially focus on giving CBS’ broadcast shows more of an individual web identity. That primarily includes creating distinct community features around the network’s shows. Beckett: “We’ve built out a social network platform on the shows own sites. The backbone of the project is the interactivity tools and the community that forms around those tools. We learned from LonelyGirl and [the company's other web series] KateModern that allowing the audience to discuss the content, send messages and chat are critical to drawing viewers to the online programming itself.”
– Attracting older demos: CBS has long been known for tending to attract older demos, a fact that Moonves was both defensive about and proud of at March’s McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP) Media Summitt. I asked Goodfried about whether they expect to get mostly younger viewers responding to their online features and if CBS’ older audience presents a challenge. “If you look at LonelyGirl and KateModern, their audience is held together by a common interest, not a particular age group. Some of the most dedicated viewers of LonelyGirl are people in their 40s and 50s, believe it or not.”