NBC4 Southern California is jumping on the two-screen viewing bandwagon, but with a twist. The West Coast flagship of NBC’s local TV stations is rolling out a mobile technology dubbed myCode that lets viewers get special offers and discounts via a smartphone app while watching.
But unlike other second-screen apps like Yahoo’s IntoNow, Shazam or Viggle, that require users to point their phones at the screen or otherwise interact with programming, the myCode app is built for true couch potatoes. After downloading the app to their iPhone or Android device, all users have to do is sit back and let the offers come in as they watch TV.
Said Steve Carlston, president and general manager of NBC4: “You just have to have myCode on and automatically throughout the day, if within 50 or 75 feet of your TV, you’re going to offers, couponing, sweepstakes opportunities.”
The myCode technology, developed by startup WinMore Inc., utilizes an inaudible code embedded in an audio source to send promotional offers through the app, rather than via on-air digital wartermarks or pre-offer notification. The deals don't even have to be tied to TV commercials or network shows.
“We’re actually going to have a lot of nontraditional TV advertises come on board,” said Carlston. The focus, though, is on advertising related to the greater Los Angeles area, with 5.7 million television homes and over 17 million people.
For the myCode app, which NBC4 is soft-launching today, the station has lined up local advertisers including Powell Electric, the California Science Center, Legoland, Six Flags and SeaWorld. Carlston said the technology is also attracting interest from national brands, such as McDonald’s and Carl’s Jr., for locally targeted campaigns.
NBC4 has an ad revenue-sharing agreement with WinMore, which is handling sales efforts for national advertisers, while the TV station focuses on local market ad sales. Advertising via myCode is being sold on a performance basis, but Calrston said things like ad rates haven’t been standardized yet because its second-screen project is just getting underway.
The station is boosting awareness of the app through a station host who regularly does promotional spots on-air, its morning show and news staff, and through its Web site. Carlston pointed out that NBC4 plans to extend myCode beyond the TV to other platforms, including the Internet, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Even outdoor locations.
Users can redeem myCode offers in a variety of ways, depending on the type of campaign, including email-to-print, a one-time-use mobile barcode, sharing with a friend, or calling a designated number.
Through its partnership with WinMore, NBC4 has exclusive rights to the myCode system as a broadcaster for three years in the L.A. area. But WinMore President Dan Morris, who also serves as president of ad testing firm PreTesting Group, of which myCode is an offshoot, said the company is already in talks with other distribution partners to bring myCode to other parts of the country.
PreTesting CEO Lee Weinblatt is the nventor of the myCode technology, which is rolling out the service outside the U.S., starting in Israel.
Given the privacy concerns raised around apps, Morris emphasized the myCode app requires an opt-in and is only collecting anonymous data via an identification code assigned to each user. Registering requires a user to enter Zip code, year of birth and gender. People can also provide additional demographic information for more targeted offers. As it is, the sign-up page isn’t very clear on what information is optional and what isn’t.
For NBC4, what matters is how myCode can help expand its overall audience. “If you can get more people to watch for longer periods, that’s the formula to build ratings,” said Carlston.