Viacom’s Nickelodeon has launched a free app for iPhones that provides access to full episodes for subscribers of participating pay TV partners — plus games and other interactive content — and is targeting a version for Microsoft’s Xbox in late June.
The kid cabler was the first Viacom brand to launch a TV Everywhere app, bowing one for Apple’s iPad tablet in February. Nick’s strategy is to reach youngsters on every screen, in an attempt to hold on to its core audience as mobile usage soars — and as over-the-top video alternatives for children’s programming like Netflix grow increasingly popular.
“With these apps, we’re basically trying to create a brand-new experience that begins to reimagine what a TV channel is for today’s digital kid,” said Steve Youngwood, executive VP and general manager of digital for Nickelodeon.
With the release Thursday of the app for iPhones and iPod Touches, the cabler expects to reach an even larger addressable audience. Its Xbox 360 app, slated to launch June 25, will be Nick’s first foray into connected TVs.
In the Internet-connected TV space, “the most relevant platform is Xbox,” Youngwood said. “There are a lot of kids spending time on the Xbox.”
Through the apps, Nick provides the five most recent episodes of current series — including “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Big Time Rush,” “The Fairly OddParents” and “Sam & Cat”— to households that subscribe to a TV service package with Nickelodeon from one of nine distributors: DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS, Bright House Networks, Cablevision Systems, Hawaiian Telecom, Suddenlink and RCN. The biggest providers absent for now are Comcast and Dish Network.
But there’s a “very robust non-authenticated experience,” as well, according to Youngwood. For starters, the oldest of the five full episodes from each show is available for free to anyone. The apps also offer more than 2,000 pieces of original content, such as short-form videos, games and polls, with more added daily.
“We consider this a new, branded, immersive experience, with TV Everywhere in addition,” Youngwood said. “You don’t just take TV and move it over the left. We could have done that years ago.”
On the Xbox 360, Nick’s app will take advantage of the videogame console’s features like Bing search and the Xbox Kinect attachment for voice and gesture controls. Cabler has not determined plans for Xbox One, Microsoft’s next-generation overhaul of the console. “We’re working with them for what it means for current apps,” Youngwood said.
Nick is selling direct advertising for the apps, with sponsors that have included 20th Century Fox Studios (which promoted “The Croods” on the iPad version), Universal Studios, Marvel and Mattel. The full episodes carry the same ad load as those on TV — although those cannot be rolled into Nielsen TV ratings, for now — and Nick is placing ads against short-form video, too.
Early results on usage are encouraging, Youngwood said: On iPad, time spent with the app is more than 20 minutes per day per unique visitor — 25% higher than for Nick websites accessed on computers.
The Nick apps are free of charge, available anywhere in the U.S. Primarily they’re aimed at kids 6-11 but have crossover appeal to tweens, teens and adults.
Later this year, Nickelodeon plans to launch a Nick Jr. version of the app aimed at preschoolers.