Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Viewing Socially

I’ve noticed announcements of CBS’s social viewing rooms for some of its most popular series. I’m not much for watching entertainment videos on the web. However, I have been known to watch a show or sporting event from the comfort of my sofa while talking on the phone to a friend who’s also watching it—I guess that’s the non-social-media version of the same thing.

Anyway I decided to check out the social viewing rooms. I had the direct link, so I looked at the roughly 30 that are available (includes Survivor and The Young and the Restless and lots of sitcoms, which probably indicates a young target audience—surprise, surprise!). However, they have the original Perry Mason series also, so they must have hopes for older viewers.

I clicked on NCIS. That took me to a login page where I could actually register and sign in or just use a temporary name if you want to remain anonymous. I signed in using a ficticious id and was taken to the room for the episode I had chosen. I was the fifth person in the room; 3 of us anonymous, 1 that looks like an avatar, and a kitty with a green hat. I really need a cute identity for these things. . .

In any event, when you sign into one of the rooms you join a program in progress--after viewing an ad, of course. There were two rooms open for this particular episode; Room 2 appeared to hold three of the same people. Were they looking for an earlier entry point? I have no idea. There were occasional quizes about some of the esoterica of the show itself. A comment box was available, but I didn’t say anything.

I thought that in order to watch from the beginning, you have to “View by myself.” That is true, but along the way I got lost. I could get back to the NCIS home page, but I couldn’t get out of it and get back to the page that lists all the series. I eventually had to go to the CBS home page and intuit that the Watch & Chat link would take me to the social viewing rooms. It did, and that might work better for the average user than the “social viewing rooms” link I was looking for.

Some of the comments on the NCIS page are pretty funny. I especially liked the young woman who had to wait until she got home to watch because they’ve taken off her video at work. Wonder why?

But issues of work vs. entertainment aside, it’s an interesting experiment. As is often the case with social media, it looks to me as if it’s going to attract primarily the young, which is fine. I can’t get to the advertiser metrics, of course, but based on my short experience, I’d be careful. I’m pretty sure there were only 5 unduplicated viewers at this particular moment even though the 2 rooms held 8 viewers. I suspect there are engagement metrics—viewed completely, took quizes, commented. Those would be the most interesting, but not terribly relevant unless there’s more advertising at the end. I didn’t stay for the entire episode.

I wonder what other applications might exist for this type of platform. I don’t see anything terribly obvious, but the social media space is evolving in interesting ways. This is a Beta worth watching.

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