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Streaming Media East: CBS Points the Way to Multimedia Success

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CBS is the leading broadcaster for online video, multimedia distribution, and social engagement, and in a second day Streaming Media East keynote address, attendees found out how much work goes into that. Guiding the audience through CBS’s interactive efforts, Rob Gelick, senior vice president and general manager of digital platforms at CBS offered a roadmap for multimedia success.

The mobile revolution has been great for savvy broadcasters: Gelick offered statistics that 88 percent of tablet owners watch video regularly on their devices and 50 percent use them to watch full-length TV shows. People predicted that mobile devices would be used primarily for snack-sized content, he said, but full episode content has proven more popular. Even for younger viewers, mobile devices have led to deeper TV engagement: 39 percent of 18- to 49-year-olds say their tablet viewing has increased their TV viewing.

CBS has done much to capitalize the rise in online viewing, and Gelick guided the audience through his network’s thriving online properties. CBS has an iOS mobile app, and will soon have similar apps for Android, Windows, and BlackBerry, providing mobile video access. The CBS Connect app launched this year and pulls in related content for whatever program the viewer is watching. It averages a fan engagement time of 26 minutes for every episode. Gelick said it’s a good resource to help new viewers of serials catch up with what they’ve missed.

Digital is now part of the storytelling process, Gelick said, and multimedia properties are now brought in earlier as a way to tell a show’s story. CBS is extending several programs with online-only web series, such as a "Survivor" after show and a series of live concerts from singers and bands appearing on "The Late Show With David Letterman." CBS has turned the Grammy Awards into a variety of online properties, spinning a one-night event into a months-long series of fan experiences.

"We monitor the social chatter very closely, because it’s a great predictor of how well our content is doing in the marketplace,” Gelick said. CBS also looks for new ways to engage with fans online. This year, "Hawaii Five-0" let fans vote for one episode’s ending, and "Two Broke Girls" let fans unlock and then win items from the set.

Other CBS online efforts include on-set Vine videos, Tweet Week where celebs gather in a special lounge and tweet to fans, and on-set memes, which Gelick called “the new video preview” and said were “tremendously popular.”

CBS has the number one network website, Gelick said, one that’s twice as big as ABC’s and four times as big as Fox’s (don’t even ask about NBC). As Gelick’s keynote showed, that success came from online video ingenuity and an emphasis on viewer engagement.

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