Mark Larkin, VP-executive producer at CNET TV, said the decision to move from beta to official launch will be made based on users’ response to the beta. An earlier iteration of CNET TV, www.cnettv.com, debuted last October, after a similar period of beta testing.
“It was a bit of an experiment for us,” Larkin said. “We decided to build a destination where we could aggregate all of the CNET video content in one experience to see if the users took to it, and they did.”
While video content has been a signature feature of cnet.com since its debut in 1996, the initial concept was to emulate television with live programming. Over time, the vast majority of video has shifted to on-demand.
CNET TV 2.0 has a radically different look and feel from its predecessor. The earlier version had a black background and a novel navigation device designed to look like a TV remote control. It had a playlist with 10 to 15 videos chosen by the cnet.com team and a video player at the center of the screen.
The latest beta has a white background, tabbed navigation bars at the top of the page and several boxes in which video lists are displayed, including Most Popular, New Releases, Today’s Playlist, an automatically rotating selection of featured videos and two featured product categories. There is also a box for sponsored videos that is not fully populated at this point.
CNET TV 2.0 has two navigation bars, one above the other. The upper one allows users to move quickly to other parts of cnet.com. The lower one organizes videos within CNET TV 2.0 and provides drop-down menus that allow a user to dig deeper into each category.
“We wanted to develop an interface where we could surface more of our huge library of videos,” Larkin said. While the CNET team is giving users much greater control of their video experience, many decisions are still made by the producers, including the selections for Today’s Playlist, featured videos and featured categories. “We have a lot of programming expertise,” Larkin said.
Another significant change is a second page within CNET TV 2.0. The home page “is all about discovery,” Larkin explained. “The second page is all about watching video.”
The second page doesn’t appear until the user selects a video on the CNET TV home page and clicks play. The video loads into a larger screen—about twice as big as the largest video displayed on the first page. Titles of related videos automatically appear in a playlist to the right of the video player. For example, if the user is playing a Buzz Report show, the playlist will be populated with several other Buzz Report episodes.
The space below the video has related text, such as a summary of the episode that’s playing. Or, if a user is watching a product review, the text and graphics underneath the video summarize “the good, the bad and the bottom line” and display the editor’s rating and the users’ rating. This is a shortened form of cnet.com’s product review format.
“The user often wants to read something based on the video content,” Larkin said. “Now, the information is summarized right there in the interface. If that’s not enough, links make it easy for them to go off to other areas of cnet.com to get more.”