CBS stokes Grammy Awards excitement with lots of online extras


Some bands wait years to reach the Grammy stage.

The rock band Within Reason won on the strength of a monthlong social media campaign.

The Alabama group was selected from among 1,500 contenders from around the country who vied for the chance to perform in front of a live audience and be featured as part of CBS’ online coverage of the Grammy Awards.

The Gig of a Lifetime concert is one of the highlights of three days of original digital programming that will give viewers Internet access to events they might not otherwise see.


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The events also include streaming coverage of Friday’s Social Media Rock Stars Summit, where Grammy-nominated producer/songwriter Om'Mas Keith and four-time Grammy winner Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins headline a discussion of how digital and social media have changed the music industry.

Online viewers can watch celebrities walk the red carpet for Friday’s MusiCares Person of the Year tribute — honoring Bruce Springsteen and featuring performances from Jackson Browne, Kenny Chesney, Emmylou Harris, Elton John, Mumford & Sons, Patti Smith and others — and get an insiders’ view of the nominees’ reception Saturday and the official Grammy after-party Sunday.

These digital efforts — the most ambitious to date by CBS and the Recording Academy, with more than 22 hours of programming spanning 10 events — aim to help build anticipation for the awards show and keep viewers engaged throughout the broadcast.

“When it comes to tent-pole events like the Grammys, true fans have an insatiable appetite for content, and for connections with each other around the content,” CBS Interactive President Jim Lanzone said. “What we’re learning is, ‘If we build it, they will come.’”

Increasingly, high-profile television telecasts such as the Super Bowl, the MTV Video Music Awards and the NBA finals are communal events that spark social media conversations.

More than 108 million people watched the Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, making Sunday’s game the third-most-viewed program in TV history, according to Nielsen. It set records for the most social commentary, according to third-party research firms Bluefin, SocialGuide and Trendrr.

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The game generated some 52.5 million comments throughout the day, three times the number tracked for the previous social media record holder, the 2012 Grammy Awards.

“You can totally find out what everyone else is thinking: Did they like that? Did they not like that?” said Mark Ghuneim, founder of Trendrr, a company that analyzes social media. “It’s a natural dimension to television. It’s almost like when black and white went to color. This is just the next evolution.”

CBS has devoted major resources to creating multiple-screen experiences for its shows, including allowing viewers of the prime-time drama “Hawaii Five-O” to choose among three possible endings to an episode. Viewers cast more than 200,000 votes in real time on the network’s website and on Twitter, and decided which suspect killed an Oahu State University professor.

Music has become a bigger focus for the network. CBS had original digital specials produced around shows such as the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. And it’s been showcasing the musicians who perform on “The Late Show with David Letterman” — including recent guests Alicia Keys, Rascal Flatts and the Silversun Pickups — in a separate online concert series, “Live on Letterman.”

With the Grammy Awards, which last year attracted 39.9 million viewers, CBS has produced original digital content to be accessed from smartphones, tablets and computers. For example, there are stand-alone segments about prominent figures in the music industry, including Don Was talking about producing Bonnie Raitt’s Grammy-winning album “Nick of Time” and music mixer Bob Clearmountain discussing his creative process.

A new element of the digital coverage will focus on fashion and the “glam” factor.

CBS drafted “NCIS” star Pauley Perrette to work as a social media reporter. She has encouraged her more than 410,000 Twitter followers to pose questions that she can ask of artists when she’s backstage during the show and at rehearsals. Twitter supported the Recording Academy’s efforts to create a live “Grammy Cast” with commentary from best new artist nominee Hunter Hayes, Zac Brown Band and other artists tweeting from the Grammy Awards, as well as couch commentary from musicians including rapper Common.

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Three iPad tablets positioned backstage — which Grammy organizers have dubbed “magic mirrors” — will enable performers, presenters and award recipients to tweet (and post six-second videos) immediately after exiting the stage.

“Not only are we curating the conversations among fans, we’re also trying to feed that conversation,” said Jeff Grossman, CBS Interactive’s vice president of content and product strategy.

One key element of the Grammy Live digital coverage is the Gig of a Lifetime contest, which gives musicians the chance to perform during the high-profile music celebration. The contest, conducted Dec. 5 through Jan. 10, attracted some

1.5 million social media votes.

The winner, Within Reason, survived two rounds of voting, which led the group to the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles to perform a live show in the 200-seat Clive Davis Theater.

During a sound check Wednesday night, the four band members talked about the long journey from the group’s formation in Tuscaloosa eight years ago to this new prominent national stage. They made their initial appearance in a bar called the Copper Top, had a song featured on the CW show “One Tree Hill” and toured with the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival.

“This is a huge step forward,” drummer Griffin Zarbough said of the Grammy Live spotlight. “This means everything.”


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