I decided a long time ago not to second-guess The Weather Channel. And I am not referring to their weather forecasts, where (like everyone) I can quibble here and there. No, I mean their far-sighted view of media. In my earliest days of covering mobile media (we're talking 2004-2005), I recall several conversations with Louis Gump, a pioneer of their mobile unit who is now with CNN. He told me that video had a huge future on mobile. I was skeptical. This was long before smartphones made their appearance, and we were still amazed at getting a still image of a weather map on a Samsung flip phone. But TWC was already gearing up with content strategies and ad sales staff aimed at moving clients across screens. Today they are, arguably, one of the most successful and advanced cross-platform media players around.
And tonight they launch a new experiment in multi-screen programming with the four-screen premiere of nature adventure series From the Edge with Peter Link.
Showing on TWC TV at 8 pm it will also be available on an on-demand stream via the Web, the iPad app and on mobile. It will also be shown live on a Times Square billboard. Link is a colorful and adrenaline-pumped nature photographer who brings viewers on exotic shoots.
Following a new trend in second screen programming, TWC has released an iPad app for the show that will work in synch with the program. Using Nielsen's Media-Sync platform the app will be able to hear the episode playing and unlock content in the app as you watch the TV screen.Second screen programming has proven to be a tough thing to get right. Leveraging the smartphone or tablet to offer parallel, synchronized content is easier said than done and poses a wholly new programming challenge for video producers. It is very easy for the second screen to be more of a distraction and a burden than an enhancement. ABCs attempt to second screen the Oscars this year (with its multiple backstage screens and parallel commentary) left me feeling like a stage act spinning plates. We will see how TWC handles the challenge, but it sounds as if their approach is to treat the second, third and fourth screens as an on-demand enhancement for the TV stream, unlocking content that encourages deeper engagement after the fact and allows the mobile or Web user to re-engage the episode as well for the lean back experience if they prefer it.