Cartoon Network Puts Toons/Games Multitasking On One Mobile Screen

CN-BHey, if you can’t beat limited attention spans, then you may as well program around them. Turner’s Cartoon Network has taken the first and second screens and scrunched them together in a novel bit of evil genius app development. The 2.0 release of their on-demand TV app for iOS allows the viewer to play a simple video game at the bottom of the iPad screen as a cartoon episode plays on the top half.

No kidding. Attention deficit disorder is now a design feature.  

The app itself is an excellent design, although the experiences are different between the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch iterations. On the tablet, the portrait oriented display is literally divided in half. As usual, cable customers can log into their account to get access to full episodes of most CN shows. Others get clips. These video streams run on the top half of the screen. At the bottom you can rifle through more than half a dozen rudimentary swipe and tap games to play.



The games are not involved enough to be completely absorbing, but they do require reflexes and hand-eye coordination that must distract the eye from the top-screen video. But the viewer/player can stop or pause either screen experience independently of the other. So if you are playing an intense patch and want to pause the video stream to play, you can. And vice versa.

The model is different on smaller handhelds. The screen is dedicated to only one media experience at a time. Rotate the iPhone or Touch to the left or right landscape mode and the app turns into a game or a video player. All quite cool from a design perspective.  

Go ahead and bemoan Turner seeming to cater to limited attention spans. All they really are doing here is admitting the obvious. If kids today are anything like my daughter ten years ago, then they have memorized most of the cartoon they watch endlessly rerun on CN anyway. Many of them are actively engaged on a second screen when the TV is on. This just compresses the two-screen experience onto one.

Which is to say “watching” TV is not really “watching TV” for them, as it may be for us. But wait. How many times have my wife and I watched that TNT rerun of "Big Bang Theory," while she reads a book and I peruse my iPad? At what point does our evening second-screen dive become so important that we start choosing first-screen programming that does not require our full attention?

By the way, the Windows 8 tablets are supposed to support same screen multitasking that will allow some apps to be “snapped” onto certain quadrants of the display. This could become very interesting for tablet video viewing and social TV.

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