Networks Hope Team Coco And Other TV-Tablet Apps Are Hits

At 6’4,” Conan O’Brien has a pretty big wingspan. Starting tonight, he’ll test his extension in another way, looking to reach through the TV screen to a handheld tablet as he cracks jokes.

TBS is launching a Team Coco “synch” app for iPad and Android tablets, allowing viewers to interact live with exclusive content and features developed specifically for a co-viewing experience. If not from the start, it’s a sure bet advertising will become a big part of the app soon.

Interactive advertising took a hit with Canoe Ventures dissolving its role there this week, but the synched TV-tablet experience offers another significant opportunity (along with tagging technology from Shazam and other outfits).

Will it take off and fly as high as O'Brien's hair visor?

Good luck guessing, but Turner, Bravo, FX and other programmers are prepping if it does.

Turner has already launched an app related to the “Big Bang Theory” and one with TNT’s “Leverage,” which offers an opportunity for viewers to vote on what might happen next in real time.

Yet, “Conan” might offer the best potential for a lean down (tablet) while looking up (TV) simultaneity, partly because its core 18-to-34 viewers are avid social media users – O’Brien has 5 million-plus Twitter followers – who are presumably experts at multi-tasking.

“It’s such a social audience primed for this,” said Dennis Adamovich, a senior vice president in digital activation at Turner, speaking at MediaPost’s Tablet Revolution event.

There are at least two ways to drive monetization with synching: advertising and p-commerce (p for pad). 

Adamovich said he recently spoke to a group of Turner advertisers about possibilities in running an ad, where a special deal or opportunity to enter a sweepstakes pops up on the tablet at the same time. Other ad models are simpler and involve sponsorships on the tablet content. Both can involve package deals.

There’s also an opportunity to give viewers a chance to purchase a product when it pops up in a scene. Turner is looking to experiment with p-commerce with classic movies on TCM, while FX has used technology from Delivery Agent during episodes of “Sons of Anarchy.”

It’s funny how research can always be found to forecast explosive growth with a new advertising foray. Here's the short version with synching: millions of tablets will be in the hands of people who love to watch TV while using them who love to consume content and advertising related to what they’re viewing. 

So, one estimate calls for 61 million iPad users in 2014. Mark McLaren, a researcher with an Ipsos arm, said Thursday 70% of tablet owners (in an 18-to-54 demo) go online with watching TV. And, about half of them (36%) do so with their iPads and other tablets in tow.

Further, McLaren suggested that group is a more captive audience than a general population online. “Tablet owners are more likely to go to Web sites that are related to either the content they’re seeing or the advertising they’re seeing,” he said. “It’s not a tremendously dramatic difference, but there is a difference and it’s a consistent difference.”

Besides the revenue potential, there’s an element of playing defense that might benefit networks in building captivating synched viewing. If people are increasingly online while viewing, there could be pressure to entrance them, rather than have them head to the entrance.

“What can we do to accelerate and ease that on-ramp into related content,” asked Scott Rosenberg, CEO of Umami, which builds synchronous TV-iPad apps, “because if you’re not doing it, (viewers are) going to be doing something else. They’re going to be doing email, they’re going to be surfing.” Twitter and Facebook go without saying.

Both Turner’s Adamovich and Dominique Nguyen, an emerging media executive at Bravo, said their networks are working with show producers to develop relevant and appealing content for synchronous apps. At Bravo, there’s an emphasis on getting talent and producers to comment in real time on the programming to sort of break down “that fourth wall,” Nguyen said.

Key, though, is “making sure it isn’t a distraction and that it is complementary,” Adamovich said.

Team Coco's leader believes the sweet spot can be found. In a promotional video, where he speaks about purchasing a jacket online from a North Korean magician, O'Brien picks up an iPad and says he hopes viewers are ready for the future because it’s ready for “the you.”

Networks hope so.

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