Apps: the business opportunity

Apps: the business opportunity

By Matthew Bell,
Wednesday, 11th February 2015
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Apps have the potential to change the way we interact with TV shows.

Interactivity has been a feature of TV shows for many years but now – thanks to mobile apps – it could offer producers a way to make more from their programmes. A London Centre event late last year, SInteractive social TV formats: the business caseT, revealed how the producers of big entertainment shows are exploiting second-screen smartphones and tablets.

Interactive TV can involve voting, sharing content via social-media platforms, playing along with a game, entering competitions or contributing to a programme, explained event host Tom McDonnell, the CEO of Monterosa. His company has developed mobile apps for shows such as Channel 4’s The Million Pound Drop and Sky’s Got To Dance.

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There is nothing revolutionary about such ideas, said McDonnell. BBC One talent show Bob Says Opportunity Knocks was the first UK TV show to use a telephone vote to pick winners – in 1987.

McDonnell used The Million Pound Drop to illustrate how interactivity can add value to a TV programme. The C4 show Shas 3 million UK apps installed now, which is punching way above its weight, digitallyT, he said. The app game is free to play during the show, but users have to pay to play at other times. Some 10% of players choose to pay.

SAs format owners, we try to create content experiences on [non-TV] platforms,T explained FremantleMedia Head of Digital Kat Hebden, who looks after The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. During the last series of the latter, its app was downloaded 1.5 million times, a 40% increase on the previous run.

SWe’re always looking at new ways to commercialise apps,T said Hebden. SWe create some five hours of branded content around both of these shows and we have a sponsorship deal with Domino’s. We designed a voucher system: you play a game and win a voucher, which you can redeem for free pizza. That’s worked phenomenally well.T

Jenny Howard, Strategy Director at advertising agency Sunshine, said that interactivity shouldn’t SannoyT viewers. SI like the Domino’s idea; you’re watching The X Factor and you’re hungry and so [you order] a pizza – that will make your life better,T she said.

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People using apps make up a minority of a programme’s viewers, but they are a potentially lucrative market. SThere’s an 80:20 rule that says most loyalty and value comes from a small, engaged group of people. They’re the ones who buy regularly and talk about you,T said Howard.

Endemol Digital Media’s Karen Troop, whose shows include Big Brother, said that, while app users are valuable, programme-makers cannot afford to ignore their core audience. SWhat’s key for us, when we work on these things with a digital element, is that they also have to work for that 80% of the audience who aren’t going to be involved online and aren’t commenting on Facebook or Twitter,T said the Executive Digital Producer.

Endemol’s new show for C4, The Singer Takes It All, aired last summer and took interactivity a step further, with the entire production driven by its audience. SAll the contestants who made it on to the show were voted for by people using the [free] app,T explained Troop.

Once on the show, contestants performed on a conveyor belt that Smoved backward and forwards based on viewers’ votes at homeT, she added.

Interactivity, she said, should not be an Sadd onT to a programme. SWith The Singer Takes It All, it’s integral to the format. But, equally, that show is just as enjoyable to someone who’s not getting involved.T

Matthew Bell