USA Adds App to Social TV Activity

Engaged viewers create advertising opportunities
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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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