The forensic work portrayed on the "CSI" TV series has met its match in the sophistication found in the business of branded entertainment...

Share story

The forensic work portrayed on the “CSI” TV series has met its match in the sophistication found in the business of branded entertainment. Looking at the role Microsoft‘s technology played in Wednesday’s episode of “CSI: NY” makes that clear. For those who didn’t see the show, here’s what happened:

To solve a murder during a high-school prom, “CSI” detectives use Photosynth, software that stitches together images and creates a three-dimensional map, to re-create the scene. In this case, the raw material consists of cellphone photos taken by students at the dance, which the software uses to build a “synth” of the gym at the time of the crime.

The photographic reconstruction, which gets major airtime in the episode, leads investigators to a suspect. Detective Don Flack, played by Eddie Cahill, confronts the suspect with the evidence from Photosynth and then says, “It’s Microsoft’s world, kid. I’m just living in it.”

We reviewed the show with Stephene Kelley, chief strategic officer of iTVX, one of the leading providers of data and analysis in this field.

“Their integration through that show was actually worth almost four commercials,” Kelley said. “They got a tremendous amount of value for that integration. … Because it actually helped solve the crime, it adds more value.”

The show had an estimated 11.6 million viewers and the estimated commercial cost $289,275, according to an iTVX report Kelley shared with us. The total value to Microsoft was $1,088,795, Kelly said.

Microsoft said there was no financial exchange with “CSI,” but show producers have visited the company for insight into the latest technologies — which they feature on their shows — and Microsoft personnel have provided technical assistance.

iTVX analyzes each show down to 1/100th of a second and presents a detailed report to its clients, including a proprietary video player that displays data on a brand’s or product’s presence, clarity and integration into the episode.

Photosynth, a new technology that’s more complex to present to a viewer than, say, a new-model SUV, still managed to get high scores for clarity because the detectives spend so much time with it during the show. They also said its name, shooting the clarity score higher.

Advertisers and producers use iTVX scores to negotiate rates, write contracts and evaluate marketing value. One score, the Q-Index, compares the value of product placement or integration with that of a paid commercial. A score of 100 means the placement was worth the same as a commercial.

Microsoft’s Q-Index during the scene where Flack busts the kid with the evidence hit 309. The 1.2 seconds it takes him to say “It’s Microsoft’s world, kid,” is worth $35,731, according to iTVX. “It has more quality and will impact the viewer more than a second of commercial time,” Kelley said.

But it’s not as though Microsoft was the only technology company represented in the episode. Many of the students’ cellphones had Apple logos on the back. And the first “paid” commercial showed people dancing, white earbuds flying.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.