Nickelodeon Co-Viewing App Rolls Out Orange Carpet

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2011 Live Now ScreenNickelodeon rolled out the orange carpet for connected kids with an updated Kids’ Choice Awards co-viewing app.  My tryout during Saturday’s show was limited to a few minutes because:

1)  I was camping and used a wi-fi connection at the Fall Creek Falls State Park lodge during a dinner stop, and

2) The pre-teens in our group ran away with my iPhone as soon as they saw what I was doing.

Once I tracked down the gang of hooligans and retrieved my iPhone, I found out they liked the app.  The ones who tried the app last year said the backstage camera quality was much better this time because the video stream looked blue in 2010.

The app provided a full experience before, during and after the awards show.  It received a lot less media attention than ABC’s Oscar Backstage Pass, but was every bit as ambitious in its own way.  It was also free instead of 99 cents like the Oscar app.

If the pre-teens hadn’t run away with my phone, I might have been able to experience all the features listed on the app’s iTunes page:

  • Live video feed from the Orange Carpet
  • Live backstage video
  • Preshow and post show video highlights
  • Tons of photos before and after the show
  • Live new alerts
  • Live polls
  • Play along with the online audience & predict the winners
  • Live voting during the show

I did get to try the app for a bit before and during the live show.  First, I noticed the user experience when apps like this transition from pre-show to live show still seems unpredictable. As a user, it’s often unclear whether the app will magically update at show time to reveal live content or whether I will need to exit and restart.

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards shows room for other channelsNicelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2011 Signing Autographs BackstageWhen the on-air show started, the app’s big feature was the live backstage camera feed.  There was only one stream, but it switched often between multiple cameras with a text label on screen identifying the location.   While you could not choose which camera to watch as with ABC’s Oscar app, I did see an interface that looked built to support other choices.  Video quality was good once the stream locked in with no buffering issues.

Nickelodeon did a good job controlling the cameras, at least some of which were robotic, to pan and zoom for interesting sights.  That helped give the illusion there were even more cameras than actually used.  I saw iCarly star Miranda Cosgrove backstage talking with people and others getting drinks at the bar refreshment stand. I only saw them handing out bottled water.

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards 2011 Backstage PIPThe only complaint the pre-teens and I had was the lack of backstage audio.  Of course, we did not have a TV handy, so we were missing a lot of the overall picture.  It might make sense for a programmer to keep the focus on the on-air show, but I think it’s too early to tell what the best user experience will be. When I see people talking, I want to hear what they are saying or at least hear the crowd noise so I feel like I’m there.  The complete silence during the live stream was almost disturbing and some kids might have thought the app was just broken.  The backstage stream sometimes featured a live picture-in-picture of the on-air signal (“Live on Nick Now”), so it would have been nice to at least hear the on-air audio.  However, that might run into distribution rights issues with affiliates.

Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards 2011 Mystery Third Screem

Swiping swideways past the second featured image revealed half of a third, mystery image.

I experienced one odd behavior in the app right after the live portion began. When the show went live, the app’s main page indicated there were four screens you could access by swiping. When I exited and returned a couple of minutes later, there were only pagination dots for two screens.  But I could still swipe sideways and pull the second image over far enough to see half of a mystery third screen. Perhaps it was for a feature that wasn’t supposed to be accessible yet?

The iTunes store released an update for the app Monday, two days after the show.  It’s weird because the description for the update looks like it was meant to be released before the show, not afterward (“Added Live day of show behind the scenes backstage video and KCA voting to the main navigation”).  I have heard of some networks having trouble synchronizing TV schedules with the unpredictable timing of Apple app approvals, so it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened here.  Broadcasters may need to work out an arrangement with Apple for major events to schedule releases for certain times.  Of course, the downside of an app update is the only people who will benefit are the ones who bother to perform the update.  I think some users still don’t even realize they can update apps wirelessly, without connecting to a computer.

Nickelodeon also took advantage of the audience engagement by running banners and other placements for the upcoming animated movie “Rio”.  There was also a section of the app promoting Nickelodeon’s other apps that range from free to $2.99.

At least some of the app’s content is actually not built into the iPhone app itself, but is served from the Nickelodeon mobile site within iframe-like embedded browser windows.  Those pages don’t look or act as slick as native app screens, but I can see how serving browser-based content allows for more flexible content updating and re-use for platforms besides the iPhone.

The app store lists 29,435 ratings with an average of 3.5 stars, but those include last year’s edition.  Of those, 48% gave it five stars and 22% gave it one star.  There were a handful of complaints this year about the app crashing.  However, I am seeing with co-viewing apps that a lot of reviews are based on a user’s opinion of the show’s stars, characters or plot rather than how well the app worked.  The pro- and anti-Justin Bieber crowds turned this app’s review comments into a mini-discussion board.

It would be interesting to see a breakdown by device and compare numbers for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.  This may be a case where the target audience of pre-teens is more likely to have used an iPod touch than one of the more expensive devices. I saw an interesting Business Insider story tonight that a Piper Jaffray study says one-third of teens plan to buy an iPhone in the next six months and 20% plan to buy a tablet.  Now you know where the summer babysitting and lawn mowing money will go.

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