Shark Week Live Feeds on Interactive Television Marketing Strategies
WARNING: This iTV review may be too intense for the squeamish or those with upcoming beach vacations.
Co-Viewing with the Sharks
This past summer, Discovery Channel’s iPad app featured Shark Week Live, a “co-viewing event” with three hours of interactive content each night of the event. The app was as full of interactive television marketing features as the water was of blood.
Fans like me who already had downloaded the free Discovery Channel app found Shark Week Live prominently displayed and ready to go. Put a check in the plus column for programmers whose iTV strategy creates a single point of entry vs. downloads for each show. That said, if you needed to download the Discovery app, it was a little confusing since they were also selling Discovery's Ultimate Sharks for $4.99. And per Discovery’s instructions, iPhone users needed to load the Shark Week Live app itself.
Once you selected Shark Week Live, the app provided simple 1-2-3 instructions.
Turn on your volume? Are we going to hear the screams over our iPad too? No, the app prompts you via an audio cue to new content every few minutes so you don’t have to keep looking down, as with many other dual screen experiences, to see if something new is going on. Excellent.
Because this is a time synched experience, viewers also choose their time zone. Simple enough to do for EST and I assume folks in other times zones are used to the time zone shuffle. But live also means the app doesn’t work with time-shifted DVR viewing (as Nielsen's Media-Sync Platform does). That’s okay if Discovery is working to drive live viewing (typically more valued by advertisers), and their explanatory language certainly indicates that as a goal: “Don’t touch that DVR or you’ll miss out on the fun of this 100% live co-viewing experience.” Okay, I’ll obey.
After logging in (you can do that through Facebook or anonymously), I watched Top Five Eaten Alive (as in sharks eating people) and Killer Sharks (as in sharks killing people).
Let's Get Wet: The Features
Quizzes expanded on programming by asking viewers such questions as “The ragged-tooth shark is responsible for how many attacks?” If I answered it correctly, I’d earn 200 points and begin my competition against other Shark Week Live participants, some of whom had early in the week already racked up thousands of point...a bit disheartening to new participants like me. The app also automatically offered up Quiz Answer Explained, a brief but interesting note detailing each correct answer. That’s thinking things through, since with other apps I often wonder what’s up when I get a quiz question wrong (on the rare occasion that happens, of course).
Poll subject matter fit live programming with to-the-point killer questions. Keeping on point is key to high rates of viewer interaction (see Bridezillas Engages Interactive Television). Results spoke to both numerically and visually oriented viewers by displaying as a number and graphic via a lightly shaded bar.
Social Media streams occupied two-thirds of the screen, so the real estate speaks to the importance Discovery places on these interactions. By selecting the appropriate tab, viewers could follow “Our Updates,” “From the Fans” and “All the Buzz.”
I found the Fan choice most entertaining given the colorful commentary, particularly from those grossed out by what was happening on the big screen. For the shows I watched, “Our Updates” didn’t add much beyond some t-commerce and show promotions, so I’m not sure what was gained by separating streams. Two buttons below the stream made it easy for me to join the conversation by posting to Facebook and Twitter. See my Twitter post here:
Promotion: Shark Week Live was “brought to you by the Toyota Venza” with two and sometimes three ad placements on the screen along with a link to an interactive website on the vehicle. That's smartly taking advantage of the iPad's capabilities. Note that Discovery also promoted the app on air. That’s a must-do interactive television marketing strategy to insure viewers are actually aware of an app's existence.
Other Content: The full body schematics illustrating bite locations in red slashes caught my attention. Disgusting but somehow intriguing. And given all the blood on the big screen, you might say restrained. The Thanks for Watching Killer Sharks message at the conclusion of the co-viewing experience was a nice touch, too.
In sum, Shark Week Live added to the viewer feeding frenzy by staying on topic and on theme. If you had the stomach for what was happening on the big screen, the second screen experience was a welcome heaping of seconds.
Did you catch some of the Shark Week action? Tell us about your favorite fear-inducing moment!
Will Keller, President, Interactive TV Commerce, is the go-to expert for t-commerce sales strategy and execution. For more iTV insights, subscribe to Inside the Screen or follow him @iTVcommerce.