McDonald's Launching In-Restaurant TV Channel

Fast feeder seeking way to encourage diners to stay longer

First McDonald's, Des Plaines, Ill.

LOS ANGELES -- McDonald's is launching the McDonald's Channel, a digital network of exclusive original content targeted at dine-in customers, reported the Los Angeles Times. The programming will be customized to specific communities around the individual restaurants, and will include local news and entertainment features, such as spotlights on upcoming films, albums and TV shows.

The dining areas of participating restaurants will be fitted with two high-definition 42-inch to 46-inch screens that will be visible from 70% of eating areas. Audio will be heard from the screen or ceiling speakers. Those who do not want to see or hear the channel will be able to eat in "quiet zones."

The programming will be shown in a one-hour cycle consisting of installments or "pods" lasting 20 to 22 minutes. Each component will have several segments that include The McDonald's Achievers, which will profile local high school and college athletes; Mighty Moms, a focus on local moms juggling home life with careers in sports such as coaching or training; McDonald's Channel Music News about musical acts, tours and new releases; and Vimby, which will cover fashion, art, music, night life, lifestyle and culture news.

About eight minutes an hour will be devoted to advertising, and McDonald's ad participation will be only a minute and a half; there may be segments about McDonald's centering on features of the food operation or about philanthropy efforts by Ronald McDonald House Charities.

The channel, being rolled out slowly during the next few months, will soon be up in 800 McDonald's restaurants in Southern and Central California, the report said. It is being spearheaded by ChannelPort Communications LLC, a Los Angeles-based company specializing in entertainment content, technology and brand management.

Reality TV mogul Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, The Sing-Off), BBC America and KABC-TV Eyewitness News are on board to provide content for the new network.

McDonald's move is part of a broader digital-age strategy by corporate America to create its own platforms to speak directly to customers in an environment uncluttered by other media, said the report. Just as individuals have flocked to social media to tell their own stories, McDonald's is the latest in a growing number of image-conscious corporations and institutions that will reach out to consumers by acting as their own studio and network.

"While they're in line getting their hamburger there is no escape," Allen Adamson, a managing partner of Landor Associates, a firm that specializes in brand building, told the newspaper. In-store networks are "one of the last bastions where you have a captive audience."

The venture, which has already been tested in L.A., San Diego and Las Vegas, is expected to reach 18 million to 20 million people a month, which ChannelPort executives said would be one of the largest daytime audiences in the region. If successful, the project, which will also include interactive elements on web and mobile platforms, may expand nationwide, the report said.

One key content provider for McDonald's will be Vimby, Burnett's Van Nuys, Calif.-based digital production company that uses a network of more than 150 filmmakers in 40 cities to generate original programming for the web, portable devices and television, said the Times.

McDonald's executives also see their new channel as a way to make their restaurants more than just a place to grab a quick bite. The programming will offer another reason to spend more time visiting with families and friends in the restaurants, officials said.

"People today are using our restaurants differently than they have in the past," Danya Proud, a spokesperson for Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's USA, told the paper. "They've become more of a destination. With McDonald's restaurants offering Wi-Fi, we've become more relevant and contemporary."