DirecTV tapped second screen app developer Magic Ruby to launch a second screen companion app for a new original series DirecTV has released, called “Rogue.”
Magic Ruby is an award-winning second screen app developer. It won a TEC (The Entertainment Commerce) award for its SOA app, a companion app for the FX show “Sons of Anarchy.” [For more on Magic Ruby’s SOA app, see TOR issue 805].
This month, DirecTV is debuting the first season of its own original series, which stars Thandie Newton of “Mission Impossible 2” and “Crash.” This is DirecTV’s first foray in original content. It is available only to DirecTV subscribers and is airing on Audience Network.
The series is a crime drama that follows a cop played by Newton who has gone rogue following the murder of her son.
“The first thing you’ll notice about the app when you download it, it mimics the look and feel of the series extremely well,” Stephen Brooks, marketing director at Magic Ruby, told The Online Reporter. “You really get that gritty feel of the underworld that these characters exist in.”
The app, called Rogue: The Second Screen Experience, offers a gamut of immersive features for the show, including synced bonus material from the writers, plot and character development mini-episodes, and eventually will house commerce for show merchandise.
“The first and most important thing of any second screen is engagement and the user experience,” Brooks said. “You need something to keep you coming back to the app and to the show. The app needs to be a companion in helping to tell that story and enrich that story to you, to build that relationship between the content and the viewer.”
Rogue: The Second Screen Experience
The meat of the Rogue app experience is in the synced content that surfaces on the second screen. “The real flying colors of the app is the synced experience,” Brooks said. “You won’t find in any other app that a developer makes for any other show with the same richness and frequency of events.”
“Events” are what Brooks calls the pieces of content that come up in the app, in sync with the show. “We post events at the rate of about one a minute,” he said. There are 60 minutes in an episode of Rogue, which runs commercial-free, so the experience for the show includes around 60 events.
Events can range from scene descriptions that come directly from the shooting script, to location maps and artifacts from where the action takes place in the narrative. “We have dozens of tidbits coming straight from the writer’s room,” Brooks said. “Back story, things that are happening in the A arc or the B arc while you’re watching the C arc – it’s all designed to take you even further into the universe.”
The app also offers mini episodes of the show, called minisodes, that give the viewer background on characters or help explain plot points. These minisodes were developed with the series, and are offered online as well as in the app.
Magic Ruby’s immersive, interactive app for Audience’s crime drama series, “Rogue”
“The neat thing about having them in the app is that at the end of the broadcast, you can watch that minisode right in the app,” Brooks said. “It fills in the blanks of what you’ve just seen, or it prepares you for what you’re about to see.”
The synced experience in the app works for time-shifted viewing also. Magic Ruby utilizes audio watermarking in its apps to launch the synced event in the app, which allows for the synced experience to be preserved whether the episode is being watched live, DVR’d or purchased on iTunes, for example. “We’ll get access to the audio master and insert an inaudible little bit of code into the stream,” Brooks said. “The microphone on your device will pick it up, and that little bit of code tells you where you are in a program, and it gives instructions to the app for bringing up some events.”
The 60-second Rule
A new event every sixty seconds sounds like a lot of activity on the second, but Brooks said the 60-second rule is a tried and true ratio for second screen apps and behavior, a golden ratio of sorts that Magic Ruby has been working on through tests and demos. “We’ve found the frequency rate of about one event per minute is actually about the perfect level of enhancement without distraction,” he said.
Second screen apps that run synced material must grapple with offering a significant and immersive experience without actually distracting from the first screen or the content. Too much second screen activity and the app becomes distracting, but too little second screen content and the app becomes meaningless.
“Events that pop up every five minutes – as they do in some apps – really don’t end up adding very much to the experience,” Brooks said. “One event per minute gives you a couple of seconds to take a look down and read to figure out what’s going on. It’s sort of like ‘Pop-up Video’ of VH1 days, it’s that concept.”
By working in tandem with the storyline and with the creative team behind the series, Magic Ruby is able to create a synced experience that’s appropriately sensitive to what’s happening on the first screen. “If there’s a particularly active scene, where it’s really important for the viewer to pay attention to the main screen, you won’t find any events changing on the app itself,” he said. “We want to preserve the privacy of that narrative, it’s not clockwork.”
The synced second screen app serves another purpose among distracted viewers. It’s also way to reign in multi-tasking eyeballs that may be tempted to stray from the first screen during plot lulls.
“You have to keep in mind is that the connected viewer is already in a state of distraction,” Brooks said. “They’re no longer in that lean back state when they’re watching TV.”
Synced content events on the second screen can serve to keep a distracted viewer engaged with the show, even if he or she is not completely engaged with the first screen. “We’re able to create a vertical walled garden, where we give just enough content to either absorb or interact with the viewer, without disrupting from the main screen, and without allowing the viewer to go down a rabbit hole, and start searching for content that is unrelated from what’s going on in the main screen.”
There is yet a third benefit to offering an immersive, eyeball-catching second screen app, and that is the potential for commerce and monetization. Magic Ruby’s SOA app won praise for its successful commerce feature, in which viewers can purchase clothing items and merchandise seen in the show. Brooks said a similar feature will be launched in the Rogue app starting this week. “The commerce will be related to items that either appeared on the show or are inspired by the show. We used the SOA app as a guide to that. It’s been very successful.”
This week, the app will also begin offering advertisements, as a means to monetize the second screen. Brooks said creators of the show didn’t want ads to appear in the app for the first few episodes. “Advertising won’t be intrusive, it’s something that fans are quite used to,” Brooks said. “We’re not breaking any barriers with advertising.”
Multi-platform Narrative Integrated with Second Screen
The first season of the series has been written with a multi-platform narrative in mind. The storyline includes several minisodes — short-form videos that are available online and in the second screen app. These minisodes were developed by the show creators as a form of multi-platform storytelling, and were not created specifically for the second screen app.
As content creators utilize multiple platforms for storytelling, the narratives can become more complex. A second screen app that offers immersive content is a great way to start a show, because it allows the consumer to learn more about the characters and storylines.
Brooks said that’s true for any first season of a scripted drama. “You want to be able to contextualize what’s going on in the main screen,” …
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