The world’s largest hamburger chain is launching the McDonald’s Channel, an in-store digital TV network of original content, including local news and youth sports coverage, human interest stories, and entertainment previews.
Programming will be localized to each restaurant’s community. Music, fashion, and nightlife will also be featured…because we know consumers are itching to take wardrobe advice from Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar.
The channel is being introduced throughout the next few months, and will eventually extend to 800 restaurants in southern and central California, with potential for a nationwide expansion if it proves successful.
McTV is a calculated effort to reach customers at a moment when they are captive and attentive. While 21st-century television audiences have splintered because of the increasing number of cable channels and social media sites that are seducing media consumers, many brands are finding it easier to project their message through a proprietary outlet. With more than 33,000 restaurants in 119 countries, the company behind the golden arches already has the groundwork laid for quite a platform if the channel takes off.
ChannelPort Communications, a content company, is partnering with McDonald’s to provide the channel’s programming. A range of other media partners are also on board: reality TV guru Mark Burnett, BBC America, and KABC-TV Eyewitness News. Participating restaurants will have two large-screen HDTVs installed, and corresponding audio will be piped in through speakers. Quiet zones will exist for customers who want to enjoy their McFlurry in peace.
The channel should be an effective way to present a positive, controlled brand image, particularly after McDonald’s has taken hits by its portrayal in Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me. Programming may include segments on the company’s charity initiatives or a behind-the-scenes look at food operations.
It is also intended as a way to lure the customer in from the drive-through to spend more time (and hopefully more money) in the restaurant. In recent years McDonald’s has revamped the design of their store interiors and installed Wi-Fi in many spots to invite patrons to come in and stay a while.
“[Our restaurants] have become more of a destination,” Danya Proud of McDonald’s USA told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve become more relevant and contemporary.”
If she says so. The only question left is, will customers be “lovin’ it?” Or, is this yet another way to encourage Americans to sit mindlessly in front of the tube as they scarf down Big Macs and fries?