Podcasting invades Hollywood

Hollywood is no stranger to embracing the new media trends of the Internet. The television networks are now beginning to integrate podcasting as a means to promote their news and entertainment offerings. Podcasting is a method of publishing audio programs via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files, usually mp3s.

Both the ABC and CBS networks launched their news division podcasts earlier, pioneering the move to integrate this new online audio distribution tool to create a personal and automatic connection to their viewers and listeners.

CBS is the first major network to enter the domain of using podcasting to generate interest around its television shows with an initiative called Netcast.

The network began a search for a podcaster to interview CBS stars for the new fall season. I applied and was selected at the end of August.

CBS flew me to Los Angeles Sept. 10 to take part in the fall premiere event at CBS studios. In one day, I interviewed 31 cast members of several television shows. These 5-10 min. podcasts are already being broadcast on Infinity Broadcasting’s San Francisco-based KYOU radio (online at http://www.kyouradio.com), and will be made available via CBS.com shortly (likely featured on the CBS Netcast page at http://www.cbs.com/netcast). Some of the actors I met and interviewed included Jon Cryer, Henry Winkler, Stockard Channing, Jennifer Love Hewitt and others from CSI, NCIS, Without a Trace, Still Standing, Cold Case, Survivor and The Amazing Race.

Larry Kramer, President of CBS Digital Media, is behind this early adoption in the entertainment side of the network’s programming. He has a history of using the Web successfully, most notably as founder of MarketWatch.com, the financial news site. CBS liked what he was doing and invested in his company, more popularly known as CBSMarketWatch.

“Podcasting has become one of the fastest growing programming and promotional tools in media today,” said Kramer. “With this dedicated site, we plan to be part of this new medium in a big way. With this move, we continue to expand our entertainment programming portfolio on CBS.com in way that engages the consumer with a unique experience that complements the broadcast on the Network.”

CBS’s Entertainment division agrees. “Podcasting is another smart, creative way for viewers to access and experience their favorite television programs,” said Nancy Tellem, President, CBS Paramount Network Television Entertainment Group.

When CBS Netcast launched earlier this month, one of its first podcasts was the longest running series on television, Guiding Light, now in its 70th broadcast year. Guiding Light started on radio before being televised on CBS in 1952. Now available in an audio format again at CBS.com, it’s come full circle.

“This new technology harkens back to the infancy of this enduring medium, when fans gathered around their radios to follow their favorite stories and characters,” commented Barbara Bloom, Senior Vice President, CBS Daytime Programming. “It’s exciting to bring one of daytime’s most enduring dramatic serials into this new realm. And with this new feature, Guiding Light fans won’t have to rely solely on their TiVo’s or VCRs to catch up with their favorite daytime drama. Podcasts offer the convenient opportunity to listen on computers or portable handheld devices.”

CBS Netcast mp3’s can be downloaded at http://www.cbs.com/netcast. All you need to get started is a Podcasting application. Once you download and install it, simply click on the RSS (really simple syndication) icon for the feed you want, then copy the URL from the address bar of your browser and paste it into your Podcasting application. The software will automatically check for updates and download the files to your computer so you can load them onto your MP3 player.

The podcast subscriptions currently offered on this site are “House Calls: The Big Brother Talk Show”, audio from the soap “Guiding Light” and “CBS Soapbox”, conversation and interviews with CBS soap stars.

There are several free or commercial Podcasting applications available for download: iTunes (PC/Mac), Doppler (PC), iPodderX (Mac), iPodder (PC), Blog Matrix Sparks (PC) and Playpod (Mac).