On June 25, Shine America, FOX Broadcasting, and ACTV8.ME announced an interactive “second-screen” app for the highly successful MasterChef TV show . Though I rarely engage such apps, I thought I’d take a chance with this one. I have long enjoyed the program, and if this app worked for me (a non-Facebook user – there, I said it), the platform in general has a better chance of succeeding among an audience much larger than Millenials.
So I downloaded the app shortly before Monday night’s broadcast. Once logged in, the app listened to my TV audio signal and synched to that point in the program, after which I was offered real-time quizzes and polls, as well as food tips—again, all timed to coincide with specific scenes in the show. There were also several sidebar-based elements that I could engage, including an in-app store to purchase show-related merchandise; real-time feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr to chat with others about the show; and a recipe ‘library’ for items featured in that show.
The centerpiece of the app, of course, is the real-time gaming. While you are watching the program, the app sends you questions which, if answered correctly, generate points by which participants compete and ‘earn’ certain levels of accomplishment (in this case, ranging from dishwasher to Master Chef).
So, what do I think about the experience?
On the plus side, the quiz questions were simple and parsimonious (a necessity for real-time second-screen apps), appeared right in time, and very easy to read. This allowed me to answer quickly and get back to watching the show. The app uses a countdown clock so that you know when the next event-related question would appear so you could watch TV instead of focusing exclusively on the pad screen.
I appreciated the food-driven push information and the ability to flag an item and have it saved in ‘My Pantry.’ As a former restaurateur and home cook, this element was both fun and informative. I also liked the fact that the instructions were extensive and easy to put to use. There was even a click-thru tour of how to use the app during the program, which was helpful.
In terms of the game itself, I really enjoyed it but must admit that this level of interactivity had several negatives, to which I now turn.
First, the gaming was very distracting, if only because it did suck me in; drawing me completely away from watching both the show and the commercials (the former which bothered me, the latter that should bother advertisers). The purpose of these apps is to supplement the viewing experience, not distract you from it. Then again, how can you avoid it? I tried to listen to the show while I was answering so I could keep track of what was taking place, but it was not easy, at least for me. Not all commercials coincided with information pushes or polls, but many did. For the sake of FOX’s advertisers, I assume this will be addressed.
Not surprisingly, I did not care much for the social features. Talk about a distraction! It seems many viewers would rather talk about the program than watch it. Again, this has to concern both FOX and its advertisers.
Overall, while I felt like I missed important parts of the show, the app+TV viewing experience was surprisingly fun. Once I use it a few more times, perhaps I will figure out how best to enjoy the show AND use the app…maybe.