Just An Online Minute... Web Clips Boost CBS Ratings

While some entertainment companies continue to complain about video-sharing sites, at least one, CBS, isn't griping today. Several weeks ago, CBS began uploading clips of its shows such as "Survivor," "CSI" and "Late Show with David Letterman," to YouTube.

In total, CBS has placed more than 300 clips on the site--and has seen ratings increase as a result. The company said that "Letterman" has drawn 200,000 new viewers--a 5% increase, while "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" has increased its viewership by 100,000, or 7%, according to CBS and YouTube.

The conclusion is obvious: Web users viewed clips on YouTube, became fans, and then started watching the broadcast versions.

The boost from Web exposure seems likely to help any media companies--not just those that, like CBS, have forged deals with YouTube. If studio-sanctioned clips create interest, pirated clips also should generate an increase in viewers.

Nonetheless, some companies that don't have formal deals with video-sharing sites are relentlessly attempting to get their clips off the sites. Recently, Universal Music Group filed copyright infringement suits against Bolt, Grouper and MySpace.

In the MySpace suit, Universal alleges that bootleg copies of work by its most popular musicians appear on the site before the tracks are officially released. It's understandable that Universal wants to control distribution. But, at the same time, it's certainly possible that the company would sell even more records if it let go of that control, and allowed new fans to discover its artists--even if that means tolerating pirated clips online.

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