The Cable Show 2014: Adoption Is Biggest Challenge With Apps

Los Angeles — One of the tallest hurdles when developing second-screen applications is getting users to the app in the first place, industry heavyweights said during The Cable Show 2014 on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

“The single biggest challenge we face - and we’ve launched a lot of apps - is just adoption,” said Miguel Monteverde, VP of digital media at Discovery Communications. “I mean creating awareness and getting people to actually download and use the app. It is a tough, tough thing to do.”

But once users do find the app, engagement is very successful, he added.

Monteverde was joined on the “TV Apps Crash Course: National Networks, Personalized Experiences” panel at NCTA’s annual conference by Rebecca Rusk Lim, VP, interactive experience, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.; Regina O’Brien, senior VP, marketing, Golf Channel; Ryan Spoon, senior VP, digital production development, ESPN, Inc.; and Ken Todd, VP, digital content syndication and mobile development, Showtime Networks Inc.

ESPN’s Spoon sees the challenges facing networks as falling into three “buckets.” The first bucket is friction or getting people to open the app; second is quality of content; and third is that technology is constantly changing and developers need to be able to adapt.

Showtime’s Todd echoed Spoon’s third point when it comes to issues, arguing that once all the heavy lifting is done, there is still every day maintenance to fix bugs, system upgrades, etc.

“It’s not just developing and getting it up,” said Todd. “It’s then keeping it alive and functioning well.”

The constant care needed to keep these applications up and running is a pricey investment, said Turner’s Lim, adding that because of that commitment programmers have to be choosy about the platforms they develop apps for.

And there are a lot platforms: Roku, Xbox, iOS and Android, to name a few.

But no matter what the system, the goal is to get fans to the app.

Showtime has found that one of the most effective ways to drive users to apps is through social media, said Todd. The network can post a piece of content on Twitter or Instagram and then use the clip or photo to point users to the apps, he added. The cabler is also using short promos at the beginning of their shows to send fans to the net’s mobile offerings as well.

Lim pointed out, though, that that content needs to be meaningful.

“You have to make sure the content is what they want or the apps [don’t] matter,” she said.

Jessika Walsten

Jessika is content engagement director of Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV. She has been with the brands in various roles since 2013. In her current role, she works primarily behind the screen, keeping an eye on the website and fixing any site bugs. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects for NextTV, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.