CBS and the almost idents.

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Of all the North American television I watch.. and there’s a lot, it would seem that less of it comes from CBS then probably any other major network. And while any network that brings me Letterman deserves my respect, my life would probably continue to exist if I stopped watching Old Christine and How I Met Your Mother.

The videos are short ID spots (sans audio) that started running on CBS last week, and while these certainly look great, the United States isn’t exactly known for its idents in the same way as the UK, so don’t expect S4/C-esque extravagances or cultural commentary.

– Thanks for the videos Mitch.

18 Responses to “CBS and the almost idents.”


  • Well I suppose they’re alright..but there’s nothing particularly alluring. The Europeans have it best.

  • Quite pov, what I’ve come to expect from American TV. I do love Old Christine though!

  • you´re right about american idents…all my life I´ve seen alot of american television too but none suprising…I wonder why the rest of the world does have lovely idents and american television doesn´t (being them the biggest television productors in the world…correct me if i´m wrong)

  • @ Melissa. I think American television is just so competative that they’re simply terrified of losing any viewers! They are, after all the Kings of programme promotions during credits. Aparently they do that because viewers used to switch over in their droves when there was nothing during the credits. Perhaps the lack of idents on US network TV is because they think people won’t be able to be patient enough to wait a few seconds!

  • I always think American TV is behind the UK and Oz, the colours they use, orange yellow and blue, its a horrid combo. I would get rid of that eye, I don’t like it. And it’s not versatile like the peacock, C4 blocks or even the ABC logo (You know that thing that goes up and down, I don’t know what it is.)

  • There are many reasons we don’t concentrate on idents. First, we were, essentially, the first nation with multi-channel TV. The major networks abandoned idents as our TV landscape became more competitive. American viewers are also notorious channel changers and the networks strive to be as seamless as possible between shows to try and put a stop to that. Finally, idents, to some degree are legacies from a time when TV had to fill to the hour, give affiliates a cutaway indication, or fill during technical problems. CBS was the last U.S. network to do away with the cutaway ident as automation has mitigated the need for any of the above. Idents have also remained more predominant in countries where there are state broadcasters who aren’t subject to the same competitive pressures. The BBC can put up a slide for 42 seconds and start a show at 5 minutes past the hour because they can do what they want. Their revenue isn’t derived from people actually watching them.

    All that being said, we still do them, mostly in sports. All the broadcast networks also do a short night open at the beginning of prime, which is essentially a promo for the evenings programming. The graphic above is the tag for the night open.

    As for design…we’re a broadcaster. Short of waving red, white and blue, it’s very hard to fixate on any one thing that’s represents a country as diverse as ours. Every network at one time or another has done geography and/or architecture, but even that can elicit strong reactions from various regions so we gravitate to our strengths, in CBS’s case, the eye, which is one of the most recognized symbols in the U.S. and our stars. The research shows over and over that people don’t watch networks, they watch shows. And to confuse matters more, our viewers are more likely to associate our shows with the local channel they’re watching than with the national network. We have 208 affiliates, each with it’s own identity and branding. ITV has spent the last few years systematically eliminating it’s regional branding, which is some the best ident work that’s ever been done. We don’t have that luxury.

  • Mitch:

    1) Other countries see the creation of idents and other graphics as part of building a strong brand. It would appear that in other countries people watch networks, not necessarily shows… People know in OZ that when they watch the ABC they will be watching a quality programme for instance

    2) The BBC does care about its audienes, despite its nature. And the BBC is the highest rating network in the UK. Government broadcasters do compete and have to to remain on air…if they don’t people question their purpose.

    3) ‘a country as diverse as ours’…I would wager that my country (OZ) is at least as diverse as the US…and broadcasters here have no problem reflecting everyone in their idents.

    4) maybe all this has to do with the affiliates system…which doesn’t exist to the same extent in the UK or OZ?

  • Andy:

    1. We can go back and forth on branding and it’s value, but here’s how we see it now. CBS’s eye is one of the top 5 most recognized symbols in the U.S. and has been for almost a century. We could take 10 seconds of our network’s air time, which is worth tens of thousands of dollars and reinforce what 90% of Americans already recognize, i.e. CBS or we could take that 10 seconds and promote a new comedy AND put the eye on it, thus building the brand and promoting a show.

    2. I agree with you, but the BBC has only recently stopped some of it’s most viewer hostile activities such as LONG pauses on clocks and starting shows at weird times. In other words, it caved to commercial pressures because ITV, C4 and Sky weren’t doing that stuff.

    3. Agreed, but to us American’s you Australians have a much more unified national identity. It’s all a matter of perspective. Could you give me an example of one of your commercial broadcasters idents “reflecting everyone” in an ident?

    4. It’s now almost non-existent in the UK, but WIN is a good example of what we’re up against here in the states, but on a vastly larger scale.

  • ‘Could you give me an example of one of your commercial broadcasters idents “reflecting everyone” in an ident?’

    No, of course not – the commercials don’t…because they treat viewers with contempt, and most of what they show is US anyway.

    I just don’t get why US networks, which say they don’t care about branding, in fact are qutie precious about it – after all, if the network doesn’t matter, only the show, why have watermarks?

    The BBC didn’t have ‘long pauses’…anyway, in what sense is that bad? Ever seen BBC World or BBCNews24? They have turned ‘boring clocks’ into something envied by other networks

  • Thanks for the insight Mitch so it seems that viewers [not all] have short attention spans, so the US networks have to quickly change over lol

    I remember when UPN was in it’s final days of closing down before the merge to CW, it looked so weird with no promos, bumpers or anything (except the network DOG (I think you call it bug(?)), it’s like it had been stripped to the core presentation wise.

  • I just don’t get why US networks, which say they don’t care about branding, in fact are qutie precious about it – after all, if the network doesn’t matter, only the show, why have watermarks?

    Because the watermark is additive branding.

    No, of course not – the commercials don’t…because they treat viewers with contempt, and most of what they show is US anyway.

    Sigh….

    You make my point. And the notion that a commercial broadcaster, which lives and dies by it’s viewers would treat the same with contempt. A commercial broadcaster can’t afford to alienate or lose viewers and your “precious” SBS and ABC would quickly follow suit if they had to play by the same rules.

  • Andy,

    I was there for UPN’s final days. My desk is in front of a bookcase, which has the last two years of UPN’s branding on tape. We can’t decide what to do with it because we’re afraid if it goes into the network vaults it’ll get lost.

  • Mitch –
    My suggestion with the tape (if they allow it) it maybe YouTube it. It would be quite interesting to see how UPN’s different packages were like in previous years. And also it wouldn’t be totally forgotten. 🙂 I’ve seen a lot of videos on YouTube with people doing the same thing as well.

  • Mitch, there is no need to be rude, my points are just as valid as yours.

    And if you lived here you would know that the commercial stations DO treat viewers with contempt – they move the shows around at lightning speed, shows are brought on and axed very quickly, and news and current affairs is dumbed down to a frightening extent.

    As for my ‘precious’ ABC, well it is one of our greatest cultural institutions – maybe if the US had a public broadcaster, which had a proud and strong history of informing, entertaining and educating, which was supported and loved you may be sentimental about it too!

    As for your point that if public broadcasters ‘had’ to compete they would become more commercial – that is not borne out by the BBC, which competes, is the most popular channel in the UK and maintains public broadcasting focus, and all that goes with it!

  • “No, of course not – the commercials don’t…because they treat viewers with contempt, and most of what they show is US anyway.”

    Rude?

    “As for your point that if public broadcasters ‘had’ to compete they would become more commercial – that is not borne out by the BBC, which competes, is the most popular channel in the UK and maintains public broadcasting focus, and all that goes with it!”

    If I were a license fee payer, I’d be pretty pissed that my money was going to produce “The Eastenders”. The BBC is in a world of it’s own because of it’s sheer size. The ABC it seems to me, is far more representative of a public broadcaster: Lots of BBC, no locally produced drama and a much more limited audience. In short, they’re like our PBS, which come to think of it, still does idents! 😉

  • Eastenders has a large audience, Mitch. And most viewers realise that while they don’t like Eastenders – others do…and not every show the BBC makes has to cater to them! There is something for everyone on the BBC, with 8 tv channels and 7 radio stations. No other broadcaster in the world gives the public what the BBC does.

  • On the subject of Europe, the only real idents I see on French television are the break bumpers ‘Pub’ for ‘Publicite’ or ‘Advertising’, and some other really short things occasionally. Apart from program menus that seems to be it. So the US isn’t alone here. Perhaps the French are channel surfers as well? Mind you the ones we do get seem to be better than that CBS one, which I still like incidentally. Oh I miss SBS!

  • why you got new cbs indents? you sould add older cbs logos
    e.g 1992 cbs indent.

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