McDonald's launching in-house network


So far, Mark Burnett, BBC America and KABC-TV Eyewitness News will provide content for dine-in customers. The goal is to have local school sports, movie previews and human interest stories. “The McDonald’s Channel” is already rolling out, and in HD.

The digital network’s 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 network is being rolled out slowly during the next few months and will soon be up in 800 McDonald’s restaurants in Southern and Central California. Mickey D’s tapped ChannelPort Communications, an LA-based company specializing in entertainment content, technology and brand management, for the job.

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.

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 told The LA Times 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 intention is to catch and engage the customer, and then enhance their experience,” said Leland Edmondson, founder of ChannelPort. “The McDonald’s customer is everyone, and we want not to be passive viewers but to be active and participatory with this network.”

One key content provider for McDonald’s will be Vimby, Burnett’s Van Nuys-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.

“We believe there are so many screens in America that people are able to watch on and aggregate,” Burnett told the paper. “And it’s more than sitting at home watching TV. Our company can do digital content on a national scale but with a local focus.”

The dining areas of participating restaurants will be fitted with two HD 42- 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 Burnett’s “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.

RBR-TVBR observation: We’ve seen similar screens in Wendy’s so far. This appears to be a bit more of an entertainment and localized network. It’s good for many reasons—ad dollars, keeping customers entertained and improving the dining experience. But beware—if the network becomes as entertaining as it seems is in the works, Mickey D’s may see customers lingering and loitering long after their meals have been consumed.