In A Minute, CBS Finds New Spot Of TV Programming

CBS seems to have found the sweet spot of programming for both traditional TV viewers and mobile video device users: the one-minute program.

The network said it will run a "micro-series," called "The Courier," in seven episodes of a minute or less each to be available first on traditional TV and then through mobile phones on Verizon Wireless V Cast Service.

"The Courier" is about a man risking his life to rescue his kidnapped wife. It will debut Tuesday, Jan. 24, during the first-act commercial break of "CSI: Miami," and will conclude during "Criminal Minds" on Feb. 1.

"The Courier" is different from other content deals that try to shoehorn shows onto portable devices. It's self-contained. It's also not made up of "mobisodes," which are original to services like V Cast, and doesn't riff off of existing TV series, such as Fox's "24."

CBS' invention of the one-minute show works perfectly in the still-traditional TV world of 30-second and 60-second commercials. In fact, it'll give viewers some pause--literally--perhaps slowing down all those fast-forwarding DVR consumers. The tiny shows would also break the predictable pace and clutter of advertising commercial pods.



Now, this concept isn't new. NBC tried its one-minute movies some time back. A host of marketers like Nike and Mitsubishi produced action-adventure-like commercials in which consumers could see the endings--or alternative endings--online. Last year ESPN did a series of sponsored-story vignettes--also serialized--with product placement. These vignettes ran as programming content, segments on "SportsCenter."

The CBS approach doesn't play the TV/Internet game the same way. Because the episodes are self-contained--first on traditional TV and later for mobile users--they stop viewers from doing a video device juggle. Too many TV marketing gimmicks want us to turn away from our traditional TV viewing, and run over to our computers, or cell phones, to find some sort of lame ending to a commercial or vignette.

The disconnect is still this: TV is the passive medium. The Internet, mobile phones and other devices are proactive.

One problem: How does one market this? Surely the network can't spend that much money convincing viewers to find a one-minute show.

It's tough enough to get consumers to watch regular-sized 30-minute or 60-minute long TV shows, by spending lots of promo time and money. Perhaps the answer comes from having these one-minute shows sponsored, with advertisers doing the heavy lifting of promotion. (In fact, Pontiac has begun doing just that.)

Now that CBS has figured out how to cut down some programming to its essence, it'll have to do the same for marketing: A one-minute show probably needs--what else?--an equally cool one-second promo.

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