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NBCU Building OTT Lure to Hook Viewers

Jeff Baumgartner

Seeking new ways to attract eyeballs in an increasingly fragmented video market, NBCUniversal is developing a free video app that would entice viewers to sample programming in exchange for points that could be redeemed for gift certificates and other perks and rewards, a person familiar with the plan confirmed.

That app, currently being called WatchBack, is intended to serve as a marketing tool that would let consumers watch select full episodes and content from the programmer and discover new brands under the NBCU umbrella, the person said.

NBCUniversal LLC hasn't solidified a launch date for WatchBack yet. While the free app won't provide exclusive content or access to full series, it will promote a limited selection of single episodes and clips, the person said.

In a way, the approach shares some similarities to grocery stores that provide customers with free samples to draw attention to new food products that are available on crowded store shelves.

WatchBack will feature shows from NBCU-owned networks such as NBC, USA and Bravo, as well as content from outside programmers, according to The Information, which first reported on the app's development. At the end of a program viewed on WatchBack, consumers would also get an ad featuring a similar show that runs on an NBCU-owned network, the report added.

NBCU has also considered a version of the service that shows only NBCU content, but there's still "no consensus about what is the right strategy" for this initiative, an unnamed exec familiar with the project told the online pub.

Nevertheless, it's a clear indication that NBCU and other programmers are willing to experiment with new viewership acquisition tactics as consumers continue to be drawn away from traditional TV and toward increasingly popular OTT-delivered services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

That scenario is also making it challenging for TV programmers to get their new shows and series in front of consumers and entice them to try them out.

According to Nielsen's Total Audience Report for Q1 2018, young adults (18-34) spend 43% of their time consuming media on digital devices. Additionally, 64% of video streaming service users in that same group of young adults said they are motivated to stream content when they find shows they have previously watched or listened to via "traditional media."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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