Cable television’s USA Network recently launched an app called Chatter that allows a specific TV show’s viewers to converse with fellow fans and engage with a streams of official content aggregated from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. Flickr, live chat and forums.
Chatter’s synced web and Facebook apps provides a destination for real-time conversation and auxiliary content consumption around TV shows that can increase participation and live viewership.
USA Digital first launched the HTML5 web version of Chatter in October for its shows Burn Notice and Psych. Chatter features three streams: a feed of “All” user and official content; a “Curated” feed of just content from official accounts, writers, actors, and producers; and a “Live” feed which displays uStream question and answer sessions with talent from the shows when available. Chatter posts from users may also be shown on a ticker during the broadcast of TV shows, adding an extra incentive to participate.
It launched the iframe Facebook Page tab app version at the beginning of May for the pro wrestling show Tough Enough and it inspired a 10% increase in user wall posts to the show’s Page. Users can invite their friends using an invite button (which actually produces a share dialog). As the web and Facebook versions of the app are synced versions of the app are hosted on the show’s site and Facebook Page, there are multiple access points for the aggregated content.
Without Chatter, fans would have to bounce between bounce between all of a show’s different branded content channels. This friction leads to drop-off, and prevents cross-channel conversation where users might read a tweet or a view a YouTube video but could reply through Facebook. It also limits the reach of content posted to any one channel.
Jesse Redniss, vice president of digital for USA Network, tells us that giving added exposure to user generated content through Chatter “makes the fan environment more inviting because it’s not a blackhole.” Early response to the Chatter has been positive. It has reached a peak of 25,000 concurrent users and 250,000 unique users to date, with an average of 20% of users actively submitting content.
Redniss explained that it was essential for the app to live on Facebook and pull in data from the social network because Facebook is more conversational, whereas it wasn’t seeing as high a rate of replies to its Twitter accounts. On Twitter there is “less of an overall community response. On Facebook a piece of content might get 600 Likes. That has a large impact that we haven’t seen from Twitter.”
In June, Chatter will be rolled out on Pages for all of USA’s shows. The development team hopes to add private fan-to-fan chat, and it is working with Facebook to offer exclusive content to those that invite their friends in a manner that doesn’t violate policy. The team should also consider allowing users to opt to cross-post what they write in Chatter to Facebook and Twitter to increase virality.
Chatter centralizes conversations and auxiliary official content to create a real-time secondary form of entertainment that encourages users to post show-related content to their networks by giving it additional visibility to other serious fans.
The conversation also incentivizes users to experience live television broadcasts. This should make the Chatter concept appeal to all TV studios and networks as they see their audiences drift towards piracy, watching through a DVR where they can skip commercials, or through an online streaming service which generate fewer ad dollars and cross-promotion opportunities.