CBS Live Experiences Relives the Beatles Debut

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Vice President, Strategic Marketing & Insights

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Marketers rightly complain about information overload. There is so much content coming from so many places that it can be difficult to capture and hold an audience’s attention. But in an era of information overload, there is one entertainment experience that simply can’t be beat: live.

We saw this clearly at The Grammys where brand marketers from all categories rushed to ride the surge of real-time interest and a tweet from Arby’s stole the show.

Recognizing the enduring power of “live,” a new CBS division is starting to harness the power of real-time news and entertainment events.

On Sunday, February 9th, CBS News Live Experiences will launch with 50 Years: The Beatles, a live, interactive multimedia event to mark the 50th anniversary of the band’s first American television appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. The Beatles event is just the first in a series of live events to be produced by CBS Live Experiences. The program is made possible by Motown The Musical, the story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul.

Sunday’s show will consist of a two-hour symposium at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, featuring CBS News’ original coverage of key Beatles moments 50 years to the day after they happened. CBS News Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason, who is known for his profiles of musicians on “CBS News Sunday Morning,” will host the event with a panel of Beatles experts.

The Ed Sullivan Show didn’t make the Beatles in the States, but it cemented their popularity. Their songs were already dominating the airwaves weeks prior to them performing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” when a record 73 million viewers tuned into the show.


Live events are becoming increasingly popular with media outlets looking for new areas of growth. The New York Times reported back in October that companies like The Atlantic, Huffington Post and Cosmopolitan were launching conference-style events. Fortune, which hosts a “Most Powerful Women” summit, reported an annual growth of 60% for their overseas conference.

Some top brass at media outlets are even jumping ship to start their own event businesses, including Tina Brown of The Daily Beast. Many of these events businesses, while successful, cater to tiny niche audiences of professionals. CBS Live Experiences, by contrast, caters to a far wider demographic.

These events are more than just revenue streams. As we’ve discussed earlier, experiential marketing is a highly effective means for brands to build relationships with clients. As Forbes wrote back in 2012:

The din of noise is deafening,” says David Rich, senior vice president of strategy and planning worldwide at George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, the world’s largest event and experience marketing agency. “Brands are realizing that awareness is no longer enough—it’s about brand experiences and creating brand relationships.”

In addition to live streaming the event on CBSNews.com and CBSNewYork.com, viewers will also have access to rare CBS footage of the Beatles, radio interviews and photos. Artists at the symposium will also discuss the lasting legacy of The Beatles.

The live symposium, moderated by Mason, will feature musicians and artists whose work has been influenced by the Beatles. The panelists will include Pattie Boyd, a photographer and model who was married to George Harrison and the inspiration for his song, “Something”; Andrew Loog Oldham, who managed the Rolling Stones from 1963-67, and before that was the publicity assistant to the Beatles’ manager; guitarist, songwriter and record producer Mick Jones, who founded the rock band Foreigner and played the same Paris concert hall as the Beatles 50 years ago; and Julie Taymor, an award-winning film, opera and theater director whose Oscar-nominated “Across the Universe” is a ’60s-era love story powered by more than 30 Beatles songs.

As Variety reports, the concept has its roots in the “aftershow” musical presentations available from “The Late Show with David Letterman,”


The new Live Experiences series isn’t just exciting because everyone loves The Beatles, it also offers a new way of storytelling by combining archival assets with visual and written and real time media in a novel and innovative way. This material revivified in a  way that resonates with audiences across the spectrum.

50 Years: The Beatles will also mark the launch of what CBS hopes can be a sustainable business offshoot. “People are passionate about our media properties,” David Goodman, the president of CBS Live Experiences, told Variety. “We are thinking about how we could create more experiences around those assets and bring them to life in ways that go beyond broadcast — in the infotainment space, in the spoken-word space. We have a lot of opportunities.”