By Gary Gentile
Fans of CBS shows will soon be able to slice clips from prime-time shows, send them to friends and even "mash" them together in ways that only a short time ago would have triggered complaints of copyright infringement.
CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves said Tuesday his company would embrace products and technologies that allow viewers to "time shift" and "place shift" his network's shows and interact with them in new ways.
In his first keynote at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Moonves said college basketball fans, for instance, would be able use videoconferencing the hang out in a "virtual skybox," cheering in a group and discussing plays along the way.
Fans of "Star Trek" could visit a computer-generated Starship Enterprise in the virtual world of "Second Life."
CBS is also designing its Web sites to encourage interaction among fans of the CBS crime drama "CSI" and "The L-Word," which appears on the CBS-owned Showtime cable channel.
CBS's efforts are the latest example of networks experimenting with interactivity and the Web. Walt Disney Co.'s ABC was the first network to sell full episodes on Apple's iTunes store, followed quickly by CBS, General Electric Co.'s NBC and Fox, which is owned by News Corp.
CBS also sells shows on Google Inc.'s video store, while Fox offers shows on the popular social-networking hangout MySpace, which its parent company bought in 2005.
Moonves threw his support behind two outside companies besides "Second Life" developer Linden Lab. One is Sling Media Inc., maker of the Slingbox device for relaying shows from a living room TV to any Internet-connected computer.
Sling Media chief executive Blake Krikorian said CBS would help test a new service for letting SlingBox users clip short segments from live or recorded shows and post them on an Internet site for friends to view.
Moonves said that letting fans share snippets makes sense because it allows the network to tap into the passion dedicated viewers have for a particular show. Financial terms were not disclosed, but Moonves said CBS will get paid for the clips that are shared.
"If somebody spends the time to take 20 clips from 'CSI Miami,' I think that's wonderful," Moonves told The Associated Press before his presentation. "That only makes him more involved with my show and want to come to CBS on Monday night and watch my show. And we're going to get paid for the clips this guy takes off our air as well. It's win, win."
The test will begin in the second quarter.
Moonves also invited YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley onto his keynote stage. CBS already posts clips of its shows on the popular Web site, which Google Inc. bought in November. In a turnaround, CBS said it would air several user-generated YouTube clips before its broadcast of the Super Bowl next month.
The network's more tolerant attitude toward people posting clips of CBS shows on the Internet even extends to a popular compilation, or "mashup," featuring Moonves' wife, Julie Chen, and her frequent use of the phrase, "but first..." as host of the show "Big Brother."
"She got a kick out of it more than anybody else," Moonves said. "You know what that meant? They were involved, they were watching, they were having fun with our content. And an extra thousand people were watching 'Big Brother' the next week to see if she said, 'But first.' That's good for us."
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