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Future of TV Technology Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network incorporates linear programming, personalized stream into app


By Haley Velasco, Freelance journalist

October 10, 2016 | 6 min read

Cartoon Network took home this year’s Interactive Emmy for User Experience and Visual Design for their work with the Cartoon Network video app. With the app, the Turner-owned linear network lets viewers watch shows like “Adventure Time” and “Teen Titans Go!” as well as a customizable feed where viewers can update their preferences.

Cartoon Network incorporates linear programming, personalized stream into app

Cartoon Network incorporates linear programming, personalized stream into app

Found Remote interviewed Chris Waldron, Vice President, Cartoon Network Digital, about Cartoon Network’s video app and how they are working to combine linear and digital in a creative way.

Found Remote: Why did Cartoon Network launch this app?

Chris Waldron: Through ongoing research, we know our audience and its viewing habits well and we are constantly innovating to ensure we meet the demands of our fans. We continue to make sure that our network is available wherever our audience is and that we are delivering our content via innovative experiences that take advantage of the strengths of these new platforms.

While we’ve had a mobile video app available to our audience for many years, we wanted to take this opportunity to transform that video viewing experience based on new behaviors that we have observed.

FR: What partners did you work with to create it?

CW: Much of the app was created within Cartoon Network. The concept, the user experience design, the visual and motion design, and the server-side development were all produced inside of Turner. Dreamsocket, a talented local studio, built the front-end client.

FR: What are the main features?

CW: The Cartoon Network app combines the best of linear and digital, marrying our linear programming expertise with our digital product expertise to create a new kind of viewing experience.

The app starts with individual customization. Upon opening the app, the viewer is prompted to select his or her favorite shows. The app immediately builds a custom playlist called “The Mix,” automatically playing the newest episodes of the viewer’s selections. As the playlist streams, the viewer can tell the app which videos he/she likes or dislikes. The Mix then uses an algorithm to learn more about the viewer’s tastes. The more the app is used, the more personalized The Mix becomes.

The Cartoon Network app remembers preferences for The Mix. Upon opening the app on a future visit, the custom playlist will begin instantly, offering exactly what the viewer wants right away. Should the viewer wish to see something specific, the app also has a rich library of on-demand content ready for viewing anytime, anywhere.

Not only can Cartoon Network fans see previous episodes in the app’s library, but they can also be the first to experience new content with the app’s “See It First” feature. Each month, full episodes of a select series are accessible on the app prior to linear premiere. In addition to “See It First,” app users are given exclusive access to short-form content based on hit Cartoon Network shows. Furthermore, the app is home for original IP from Cartoon Network Studios’ renowned Shorts Program, bringing new and exclusive content to our fans.

FR: Was it successful? How so?

CW: Winning the Interactive Emmy for User Experience and Visual Design was a truly humbling moment for us. We were thrilled that the Academy recognized our efforts.

Beyond the award, we have been very pleased with the app’s performance. When this iteration of the Cartoon Network app launched on July 9th 2015, we saw the positive fan reaction immediately. They loved that we had created a Cartoon Network video experience that truly reflected their tastes – and consequently responded by watching a LOT more video. Weekly video plays increased a staggering 690 percent and video time spent grew 436 percent. For the month of July, unique visitors increased 117 percent over the prior year. It was also the App Store’s No. 1 Top App for Entertainment at launch.

FR: How are kids evolving with apps?

CW: Today’s kids are mobile natives and are extremely savvy when it comes to technology. They expect interactivity now on all of their screens. And with that interactivity they assume: that they will be able to play games, that they will be able to choose from a large library of video and video game content and that their digital experiences will adapt to them (not the other way around).

FR: Anything else?

CW: While it is true that technology changes very quickly and our core audience of kids adapts just as fast, we’re not content simply to wait and respond to those changes. We are constantly working on new ideas, new products, new designs that also seek to create new user behavior by re-imagining what T.V. can be. The Cartoon Network app is an example of this philosophy as are the many games and other digital experiences that Cartoon Network creates.

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