Syfy Sync Launches in Time for 'Face Off'
Advertisers on board for second-screen experience
By Jon Lafayette -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/20/2012 12:01:00 AM
Sync apps have become very popular as more and more people buy tablets, such as the iPad. With its tech-savvy audience, it is surprising that Syfy was not among the first to rollout a sync app, but Craig Engler, the network's senior VP of digital, says Syfy waited to do it right.
"We wanted to do it better than anyone else," Engler says. "There are two things that you need for a synced experience to work. You need to be able to sync, but you also need legitimate content for it to work."
The rollout of Syfy Sync coincides with the third season premiere of the network's special effects competition series Face Off on Aug. 21. "With Face Off, there is so much content in the show that they can't get into the actual linear experience that we are putting into the app," Engler says.
Engler believes Syfy Sync will make viewers more engaged. "Viewers want to be a part of the show in more ways than just watching, they want to talk about it with their friends on Twitter, so a second-screen app is really a way to get them involved in a show in a way that they haven't been able to before," he says.
The other benefit, of course, is that second-screen apps engage advertisers. "Advertisers love anything that sets their brand apart and gives them ownership of a two-screen experience," Engler says. A number of sponsors have bought into Syfy Sync for Face Off and for another show Engler declined to name. "We've actually sold a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of sponsorships in Sync before we've even launched it," he says.
Syfy Sync users will be able to see detailed sketches and models of the designs made by the special effects makeup artists competing on the show. On Face Off, those images flash by in seconds, but with the app, fans will get a better look. They'll also be able to vote and see what other viewers think and compare that to the judges' decision.
Syfy already has about 250,000 downloads of its current Syfy app. Those users will get notification to upgrade to the new app, including the Sync capability. Developing an app like Syfy Sync costs between $100,000 and $200,000, according to Engler. There will be both iOS and Android versions.
Engler says because of the timing of Face Off, the network didn't have a chance to do formal focus groups. Instead, Engler reached out for app ideas to viewers who follow him on Twitter at @syfy.
"A bunch of times in the last few months, I've asked people, 'Now that you've been playing with two-screen apps, what are the kinds of things you like? What don't you like?' That's where we really got some of the feedback to make it meaningful, and put stuff on there I'd actually want to see," Engler says.
"We also looked at every other app out there," Engler adds. "And we looked at all the comments on those apps to find out what people liked and didn't. So we've actually done a lot of unofficial homework around, we scoured all the two-screen apps out there to see what was working and what wasn't."
The biggest lesson learned was to make the app as simple as possible and easy to understand.
"We've really tried hard to make this an experience that first and foremost is a premium experience for the viewers, not just something we want them to do, but something we think they want to do," he says.
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