Syfy is moving into the future by introducing a
second-screen sync app that allows viewers to interact with programming while
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
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
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.