CBS aims to mash up Web couch potatoes


CBS Interactive is launching an online feature that allows groups of viewers to watch and interact collectively with streaming TV content.

Dubbed "social viewing rooms," the service combines elements of a chat room, video conferencing and standard live streaming to give fans a more communal experience when watching the network's content online.

"In the past when you watch videos online, it's a very isolating experience," said Anthony Soohoo, senior vp and GM of CBS Interactive. "This takes people 3,000 miles away and makes them feel like they're sitting on the couch next to each other. The social viewing room is a next- generation social-media platform that lets users engage with each other and the content they are watching in a fun new way."

On, a group of friends will be able to join a virtual room to watch a synchronized playback of popular programs while chatting, taking polls, quizzes and even throwing such animated objects as tomatoes and kisses at the screen.

The company is rolling out the service for select CBS primetime and daytime shows starting Wednesday. Intel has signed as the exclusive sponsor of the launch.

CBS Interactive hopes to eventually expand social viewing rooms to such other CBS Corp. properties as the CW and Showtime.

"We're looking to expand it to a lot of our properties," Soohoo said. "We're going to be using this technology on many of our future products. We believe this is groundbreaking."

Such reality shows as "Survivor," "Big Brother" and "The Amazing Race" are expected to benefit the most from the viewing rooms. The network is not the first to experiment with social viewing rooms — ABC Family previous teamed with Lycos to present group viewing for "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and "Wildfire."

Soohoo said many viewers like to watch shows while on the phone or texting with their friends. The synchronized playback of a CBS social viewing room ensures all parties are watching the same scenes at the same time, plus adds interactive features that elevate the DVR-proof online version to a unique viewing experience. (partialdiff)