Cyberspace gets deadly in this week's CSI: NY episode. The next installment of the hit CBS (NYSE:CBS) crime series will feature the cast delving deep into the community of Second Life to pursue the killer of what one cast member describes as "the Paris Hilton" of the online virtual world.

Wednesday night's episode obviously isn't the first time that fictional entertainment has delivered big product placements for popular online websites.

If you caught Transformers earlier this year, you'll recall that eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) played a vital role in the action flick. Romantic comedies are all over the tie-ins, whether it's the PerfectMatch.com plug in Must Love Dogs or Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) AOL serving up the titular line in You've Got Mail.

A television show's episodic nod may seem petty compared with the big-screen odes, but CBS is going all out this time. In a recent Reuters article, the show's creator details how viewers will have several months to solve the crime within Second Life before a related episode wraps up the storyline on Feb. 6.

Setting up a virtual CSI: NY crime scene within Second Life is clever, though the virtual community has attracted several corporations -- including IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) -- to its avatar-powered realm since it launched in 2003.

The takeaway for investors is that this is just another savvy move by an old-school broadcasting network to make an online connection with its viewers. That's happening a lot lately, and we're just getting started with the new fall prime-time season.

General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC has been all over the Web this month, pitching online chats with its stars and even launching a social-networking site based on its hit workplace sitcom The Office.

Investors who may be bearish on the broadcasters because of lethargic ad-sales growth need to assess the potential for online gravy. Now that Disney (NYSE:DIS) has acquired the popular kid-friendly Club Penguin virtual community, how much longer will it take before the family-entertainment giant launches related programming?

"And here's the great thing," the CSI creator is quoted as saying in the Reuters piece. "CBS is willing to commit to two 30-second spots that night to tell 16 million people that we're having a CSI: NY virtual world ... that will be up forever."

Imagine that. A few months to solve a crime, followed by an eternity to see whether CBS can watch over a growing community of crime-drama buffs on the Internet.

With my apologies to Fall Out Boy, this ain't a crime scene, it's an arms race.

Other prime-time headlines for you:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz lives in Miami, but his wife is hooked on the original Las Vegas flavor of CSI. He does own shares in Disney. He is also a member of the Rule Breakers analytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its defiance. The Fool has a disclosure policy.