Before the characters of CBS’s venerable “CSI” return to solve murders and mysteries, fans of the show can get a head start.
For two weeks before the launch of the ten-episode “CSI: Vegas” series, CBS will be releasing clues about a new case daily on social media, on its airwaves and on other networks owned by parent company ViacomCBS. Followers who understand things will be rewarded with a virtual meeting with the actors and creators of the show as well as a preliminary screening of the first episode. The series is somewhat of a sequel to the original “CSI,” which aired on CBS for 15 seasons and kicked off a larger franchise of forensic dramas on the network.
TV networks have long tested all kinds of cool gadgets aimed at getting people to try a new show. That task has become exponentially more difficult in the age of streaming, and Mike Benson, president and chief marketing officer of CBS, says he’d like to try and capture consumer interest with content that reminds people of the program rather than clever marketing arguments that feel like advertisements.
“CSI” already has “a rabid fan base,” Benson says, but the network can’t take that for granted. “Yes, he has a known and recognizable name, but we also want to do a lot to look into that so people know it’s back and it’s new, with a new story.”
In its day, “CSI” was a powerhouse, spawning separate Miami and New York-based editions and even one that focused on cybercrime. The final season of the original series generated more than $ 37.6 million in advertising, according to Kantar, an ad spend tracker.
Getting viewers excited about the program “is one of our top priorities,” says Benson. The first clue surfaced Wednesday morning on Facebook.
The executive said the puzzles will continue and even dovetail with the plots of the new series. Anthony Zuiker, the executive producer, has lent a hand and is involved in the mysteries.
Fans can even see “real world” elements at the detective, says Benson, who has kept details to a minimum. “There may be an opportunity for physical evidence,” he suggests.
Benson has experience turning TV shows into games. In 2006, while working for Disney’s ABC, he helped create a play experience for the enigmatic drama “Lost” that required fans to use digital media to follow a storyline. He also helped create a website for Oceanic Airlines, the fictional airline whose plane was instrumental in this show, which followed a group of people whose plane crashed on a mysterious island.
“It’s a very different type of game,” says Benson. “It was more about bringing people into a special world. It’s really about the audience solving a specific mystery. Both concepts, however, offer a valuable lesson for people trying to cajole audiences into trying new shows. “People like to play with what we do,” says Benson.