Review: CBS Targets iPad for Fall Preview App

CBS Fall Preview 2011 App IconI stumbled upon an interesting iPad application last week, the CBS Fall Preview app. I say “stumbled” because I have not seen any promotion for it, but happened across it while searching for a “Survivor” show app — something apparently only available on Sprint for the HTC Evo phone. It was also mentioned on ITVT.

CBS says it is a “first-of-its-kind” app. I couldn’t find any other broadcast network apps dedicated to fall premieres, so that made me curious enough to check it out.

CBS Fall Premiere 2011 App Home ScreenThe app starts with a home screen featuring actress Pauley Perrette of “NCIS” surrounded by several new shows in “See n’ Say” fashion.  Pauley describes each show in the circle around her.

The mix of control interfaces is a little confusing.  Pauley’s video circle has controls for pause, next and previous buttons, but they just control her brief descriptions of each new show.  There are other app navigation controls at the top to see the schedule and tweets.  So at first glance it looks like there isn’t much to the app without obvious access to more info about the new shows.

Surely, I thought, it wouldn’t make sense to release a fall premiere app without much to offer on the fall premieres, so I finally had the bright idea to tap on the shows around Pauley’s video circle. It worked!  In hindsight, perfectly obvious.  But for some reason the shows just don’t look like buttons to me. Maybe it’s because the app highlights each show section as Pauley discusses it and then the show is de-selected. Maybe it’s because this uses a custom design and not the standard Apple iOS user interface controls.  In any case, the show sections look like just images to my fresh eyes and not tappable areas inviting exploration.  The app also seems to have a little lag that makes it not respond immediately to the first touch sometimes. Perhaps that is because of Pauley’s video playing or due to downloading information for the next screen.

CBS Fall Preview App 2011 2 Broke GirlsOnce I found the in-depth pages, I was able to learn more about the shows.  The new show pages are dynamically populated through a JSON text data feed from www.cbs.com.  They include videos (served by Limelight Networks) and pictures of the new shows and cast members.  This area of the app locked up my first-gen iPad twice. The first time happened after tapping the “add to calendar” link to set a reminder for a show.  I had to kill the app entirely in the iPad’s fast-switching tray and restart it. It worked fine after that for awhile, but locked up again after I watched a video clip.  I later saw a couple of app store reviews complaining of similar problems after watching videos.

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