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Microsoft To Enable User-Generated Content on CBS Station Websites

CBS will use new rich media software from Microsoft to bring user-generated content to the Websites of its owned-and-operated stations.

The CBS initiative, which is being announced today at Microsoft’s MIX07 conference in Las Vegas, will use Microsoft’s Silverlight, a cross-browser, cross-platform plug-in that is designed to bring new video and graphics capabilities to the Web. Microsoft was demonstrating Silverlight to broadcasters at the recent NAB convention in Las Vegas a way to bring new features and advertising capabilities to their Websites, and CBS will be the first broadcaster to adopt the technology. Its station group will use Silverlight, along with the Microsoft Expression Media Encoder, to give consumers the ability to upload video, images, audio and text submissions to station Websites.

"This is not about creating a portal to compete with YouTube or MySpace," says Jonathan Leess, President and General Manager of CBS Television Stations Digital Media Group. "It is a user-generated content tool, and we’re going to use the Silverlight platform to build an actual application. The key to this product is it’s a seamless experience for users to create, upload and edit content into a portal that is connected by the Internet [to our Websites]."

The Silverlight application will be integrated into the overall content management system for each station, says Leess, and station staffers will review the content before it is posted to a station’s Website. The long-term plan is to also incorporate such user-generated content in over-the-air newscast, he adds, which will become easier as CBS installs server-based news production facilities across its O&O’s.

The current schedule is for user-generated content to make its way onto a few CBS station Websites by October. Part of the timing is based on the commercial proliferation of the Silverlight plug-in across the PC community; the software is currently in beta testing and will have a widespread release this summer. But CBS stations are excited about the software’s potential, says Leess.

"All the O&Os have complete buy-in to this," he says. "We’ve been working with them for the past two years on new technology concepts, and when we’ve been talking about user-generated content, that’s had the biggest buzz. They’ve been asking us what we were doing in this space, and what we have planned."

A core requirement from the CBS stations was that a new user-generated content tool would integrate with their existing content management system, so as not to duplicate workflows, says Lane Beauchamp, Managing Editor of CBS Television Stations Digital Media. It also needed to allow them to closely monitor what content gets posted to the Website, a large concern in trying to attract and protect advertisers.

"The key question for stations was how this was ultimately going to work," says Beauchamp. "Because of the integration with the new content management system, the workflow is part of what they are already doing. So they’re not having to juggle between multiple systems. The tool will give us access to all content so we can review what we want to post; there is a process in place to monitor this content."