Music’s biggest night

The symbiotic relationship between television and music goes back to the early days of broadcasting.

One of the most noteworthy examples happened 48 years ago this week when the Beatles made their first live U.S. television appearance on the “The Ed Sullivan Show.” A record-breaking 73 million viewers–more than 40 percent of the American population at the time–tuned in for the legendary broadcast on CBS and the fab four’s stateside popularity immediately took off.

The Ed Sullivan Show featuring The Beatles, performing on Sunday, February 9, 1964, from CBS' Studio 50 in New York. (Credit: CBS Photo Archive)

The Ed Sullivan Show featuring The Beatles, performing on Sunday, February 9, 1964, from CBS’ Studio 50 in New York.
(Credit: CBS Photo Archive)

Music continues to be one of the most powerful and unifying forces in our culture, bringing people together across regions, sensibilities, and walks of life. Music plays a hugely important role in television, with soundtracks serving as a “fourth dimension” that enhances drama by further triggering our emotions. In TV marketing–as in all advertising–the music track can make or break a promotion. And television–whether it’s news, sports, scripted series, advertisements, or music videos–continues to be one of the most valuable ways for musical artists to get exposure.

CBS has long recognized the relationship between TV and music. We acquired the rights to broadcast the Grammy Awards–the music industry’s premier event–in 1973 and have been broadcasting it ever since. On Sunday February 12, we’re excited to welcome the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. It’s an opportunity for everyone in America to come together at one time, in one place, and celebrate music’s greatest talents.

Where to find the Grammys:

The marvels of oak tag tech


Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.
(Credit: CBS Photo Archive)

Early in my career, I was assigned to be a production supervisor for CBS’s coverage of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

While the official broadcast partner of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has always been NBC, CBS has also been covering the event since 1960.

One of the challenges of providing secondary coverage is that your camera crews don’t get the best position. CBS historically had to stake out a spot early in the parade route, so early that the bands often didn’t know when they would be on. In fact, the year before, the bands were stone cold silent as they passed our cameras and microphones.

It was my job to change that. I knew the band members would want to share their music with the CBS audience, if only they knew they were on. With some guidance from my boss, I paid a kid $50 to stand six blocks ahead of our cameras holding a sign that read: “PLAY NOW FOR TV.”

We estimated that six blocks would give the band leaders enough time to communicate back to their members and get everyone in sync. And we were right! That message–four words written in thick magic marker on a piece of oak tag paper–made all the difference. Following that radical innovation, CBS audiences have heard great marching bands ever since. It’s a good reminder that the best technology communicates information in a simple, direct way.

Happy Thanksgiving and be sure to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS, live from New York on Thursday, November 24.

How to find out what’s on

If a tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? The jury’s still out on that one. But in the world of television, there’s no debating that if viewers can’t find the shows they are interested in, the audience loses out, and so does the media ecosystem it feeds.

This is a timely issue as we look at the initial results of the most recent fall television season, in which a handful of new series across network television have already been canceled. Is it that people didn’t know about the shows, couldn’t find them, or just didn’t care about them enough to keep watching given all the other fantastic viewing options out there? It’s tough to say.

(Credit: Someecards)

(Credit: Someecards)

But it’s easy to see that the viewing public is overwhelmed by the sheer volume of video choice. Live TV, the Internet, video on demand, DVDs, and the contents of our DVRs–keeping track of one’s shows is beginning to feel like a full-time job! As New York Times columnist David Carr recently pointed out, “The media world today is less the paradox of choice than the inundation by options.”

Our goal as television marketers at CBS is to remove the work required for people to discover and navigate to our shows. Research has shown that the vast majority of people find out what’s on in three simple ways:

  1. seeing promos or previews while watching TV,
  2. reading the electronic program guides on their TV screens,
  3. or listening to the recommendations of trusted friends, commonly referred to as “word of mouth.”

On-air promos are the main tool in our kit. Each day and each night of the week, promos help us use our already powerful platforms and franchises to introduce and nourish tomorrow’s big hits. People love previews and want to see samples of what the latest shows are about. We test them out to see what gets audiences interested and excited, and use that intelligence to shape our marketing strategy. Promo spots did an exceptional job of getting the word out for us this year, as we introduced several key scheduling changes across the network.
Guide optimization and word-of-mouth are increasingly important as well. New services and devices like Google TV and Apple TV are coming to market promising easier search and integrated navigation capabilities. While they’re still in their infancy, these innovations cater to a growing consumer need: the need for better content management tools.

We have our eye on the space and are doing our part to cater to that need through constant collaboration with partners across the technology landscape. With more user-friendly discovery tools, interfaces and guides, enhanced electronic program guides and interactive TV widgets, we at CBS are doing everything we can to make it easier for consumers to find and enjoy our shows. Because at the end of the day, people don’t watch technology, they watch programs!