Technology

USA Adds App to Social TV Activity

Engaged viewers create advertising opportunities 10/17/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Having the most viewers of
any cable channel isn’t enough for
USA Network.

USA, also a big player in the social TV
space, has partnered with Yap.TV to develop
an app that allows tablet and smartphone
users to interact during the network’s
programming.

“We’re constantly pushing to find new
ways to provide our fans with the tools to
help share our brand and connect users and
viewers with other users and viewers and fans
to grow the community around the shows,”
says Jesse Redniss, VP of digital for USA.

The new app, scheduled for release in
November, recognizes the user’s time zone
on launch and syncs its on-screen graphics
with the show airing on USA at that moment.
Users can select any show to join the
network’s Character Chatter stream. They
will also have access to pictures and video
related to the show and will be able to use
Yap’s messaging platform to “friend” and interact
with other fans.

The first version of the app will work with Apple’s IOS
platform (Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple with Steve
Jobs, is one of Yap’s advisors). Yap also is working on a
version for the Google Android operating system.

Redniss anticipates the app will be used mostly when
people are watching USA on television. “The real feeling
of community will happen while you’re watching
the show with other people and interacting with other
people that are watching the shows too,” he says.

While users can’t currently stream USA shows on
their iPads, Redniss says USA is “looking to do that in
the near future,” setting up the possibility for a singlescreen
interactive TV experience to happen on tablets
before it happens on televisions.

USA also plans to integrate its store into the app,
allowing users to buy DVDs, T-shirts and other branded
doodads.

The app is launching without any built-in advertising
sponsorships. “We want to put it out there, give it to the
users, let them play with it and start getting some feedback,”
Redniss says. “But we’re actively in the marketplace
and will be integrating ad sponsors into the app and pretty
much into every social TV offering that
we’re going to be doing moving forward.”

Social TV can generate big numbers.
Over the summer, USA’s Character Chatter
platform, running online, on tablets
and through Facebook, had 300,000
unique users participating. Redniss expects
that number to grow in the fourth
quarter, when new episodes of Psych,
Burn Notice and Covert Affairs will air. The
momentum should continue in Q1, when
five more shows are added, he says.

In addition to growing numbers, social
media is an area more advertisers
are making a priority. “Social is becoming
much more of a hot button and focal
point for them,” Redniss says. As a TV
network, USA is a position to leverage
social media because it already has a lot
of fans and followers. “We’re looking for
ways to make it meaningful for our partners
so that as we create content together,
it becomes an organic and symbiotic
relationship with those clients so that we
get more impact with the fan base,” Redniss adds.

For example, over the summer, Ford’s Lincoln division
tied into Character Chatter during the season finale
of Necessary Roughness. USA says 23% of the people
on Chatter clicked to watch a Lincoln ad on a mobile
device served up by SecondScreen Networks.

Working with USA could open more doors for Yap.TV,
too. “I am definitely showing it around to all the other
NBCU and Comcast properties,” Redniss says. “I think
they’ll find it very interesting. And I really hope Yap is
able to do for them what they did for us.”

E-mail comments to jlafayette@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette

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