×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CBS Turns to Artificial Intelligence to Glean Viewers’ Emotional Responses to TV Shows

CBS’s research team is getting a faster read on how viewers respond emotionally to its TV shows — by using the dispassionate logic of machines.

The broadcaster is using the data-analytics platform developed by New York startup Canvs, which uses proprietary artificial-intelligence processing to parse natural-language comments.

CBS started using the Canvs Surveys tool to automate the coding of open-ended responses to surveys fielded by its research team starting in the fourth quarter of 2018. It now uses Canvs to process feedback on its entire slate of programming and tentpole events, including viewer response to this month’s Super Bowl LIII and Grammy Awards broadcasts.

The real power of the AI system is its ability to crunch unstructured data far more efficiently than human researchers can, said Radha Subramanyam, chief research and analytics officer at CBS. In Las Vegas, the CBS Television City Research Center in Las Vegas currently conducts more than 6,000 individual surveys during its pilot-testing season alone.

“When you are running thousands of surveys, humans can’t get through all of this — you end up doing things like skimming the results,” Subramanyam said. “This saves us a lot of time, and it helps us get better insights.”

CBS shares its research with execs across the company, and also furnishes the findings to showrunners and producers. Subramanyam said the insights can help inform business decisions: For example, if fans of a show express a strong passion around a particular character, creative execs may choose to focus more on that character’s storylines.

With Canvs Surveys, CBS can now field more open-ended surveys and also expand the set of questions it includes on each one. The tool measures and categorizes consumers’ responses to characters, plot lines and other topics (like related shows), using a standard set of emotional tags such as “love,” “excited,” “bored,” “sad” or “anxious.”

When Canvs first launched in 2014, it was focused on analyzing social-media chatter about TV shows. In the past year, the company developed the new Surveys application to let researchers apply emotional-response analytics to their own data sets.

Canvs now has a lexicon of more than 1 trillion words, phrases, slang terms and idioms, which it maps to standardized emotion-based categories. “We have literally billions of comments that reflect the ways people feel,” said Jared Feldman, founder and CEO of Canvs.

Over the last five years, AI has been embraced in industries like financial services. But the entertainment industry is still in the early days of exploiting the technology’s full potential, Subramanyam said. “In media, we’re in the beginning of doing all we can do with AI and machine learning,” she said. “We’re evolving CBS analytics and research for the 21st century.”

Besides speed, CBS’s switch to AI-based survey processing also promises a more standardized analysis of viewer feedback. “There’s been a ton of standardization around closed-end surveys but there has been no standardization in the open-end, stream-of-consciousness survey space,” said Subramanyam. “Now with AI we definitely have an opportunity to have a more rigorous way of understanding emotion and language that we didn’t have before.”

Other Canvs clients have included Comcast/NBCUniversal, Fox, Turner, Sony Pictures Television and Viacom. The company is also Facebook media solutions measurement partner and has an exclusive deal with Nielsen to provide qualitative insights against Nielsen’s social data.

Canvs has raised $7.1 million in financing from investors including KEC Ventures, Rubicon Ventures, Gary Vaynerchuk’s Vayner/RSE, Social Starts and Milestone Venture Partners.

More TV

  • MMA Alters Faces of Asia Sports

    MMA Alters Faces of Asian Sports Broadcasting

    Bruce Lee was ahead of the curve by about four decades when he predicted back in the early 1970s that combat sports would one day take the world by storm. Hong Kong’s favorite son had encouraged his own students to mix up the styles of martial arts they were being trained in — to combine kung fu [...]

  • Variety Kit Harington Game of Thrones

    Kit Harington on How 'Game of Thrones' Mirrors Real-World Politics

    In Variety‘s March 19 cover story, Kit Harington opens up about the final season of “Game of Thrones” and growing into adulthood as part of the biggest show on television. In a conversation in London in December, Harington opened up about the similarities between the series’ politics and our own. “I think it’s always been about [...]

  • Chris O'Dowd

    TV News Roundup: Chris O'Dowd to Star in 'Twilight Zone' Episode

    In today’s roundup, The CW has released two clips from the upcoming “Riverdale” special “Heathers: The Musical,” and Chris O’Dowd will star in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  CASTING Chris O’Dowd will star in CBS All Access’ rebooted “The Twilight Zone” episode titled “The Blue Scorpion.” The series will premiere with two episodes on [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Wendy Williams Sober Living House

    Wendy Williams Reveals She's Been Staying in a Sober-Living House

    Wendy Williams, during an emotional monologue on her talk show on Tuesday, revealed through tears that she has been staying at a sober-living house. “So you know me for being a very open and truthful person,” she began the segment on “The Wendy Williams Show,” fighting through tears. “And I’ve got more to the story [...]

  • Hong Kong Industry Executives Seek Clarity

    FilMart: Hong Kong Industry Executives Plead for Clarity on Mainland Chinese Tax Policies

    At a time of heightened scrutiny of tax affairs in China’s entertainment sector, even industry veterans in Hong Kong are struggling to figure out how to operate in the new financial environment and pleading for more clarity from the Chinese government. Hong Kong produces about 60 films a year, three-quarters of which are typically co-productions [...]

  • Michael Jackson R Kelly

    'Leaving Neverland,' 'Surviving R. Kelly' Composers on How They Scored Sexual Abuse Docs

    How do you put music to child sexual abuse — especially if the accused predators are musical icons? That’s the challenge composers Chad Hobson and Nathan Matthew David faced as they scored HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” and Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” respectively. The documentaries are built around interviews with the alleged victims of Michael Jackson (two [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content