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Behind Cartoon Network’s pioneering, Emmy-winning app

How execs combined the best of VOD and linear TV for a groundbreaking app.


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Most probably failed to notice the Cartoon Network App’s Interactive Emmy win for user experience and visual design amid the more than hundred other Primetime Emmy Awards handed out over the course of three nights earlier this month. But for Chris Waldron, VP of Cartoon Network Digital, it was a major career event.

With the app, “we’re doing something that hasn’t been seen before in this space,” Waldron told VideoInk. “We consciously set out to make something that’s the best of linear and the best of digital, as opposed to just reproducing a linear network online or building out a straightforward VOD service through the app.”

The app lets viewers watch Cartoon Network shows like Adventure Time, Teen Titans Go!, and Uncle Grandpa, some of which are available without cable/satellite login. But the key feature is the prompt viewers see when they first open the app. It asks them to pick the shows they like, then uses their choices to build a personalized feed.

“What we’ve noticed is one of the things linear still does better is instant on,” said Waldron. “You turn on the television and video is just played, and you can immediately get sucked into whatever is on. VOD doesn’t do that. Discovery is like, hey, this is recommended, but you have to click it. There’s still some friction. By setting up that feed, we can not only put the episodes that you like and you’re waiting for, but we can take the opportunity, editorially or algorithmically to insert other shows you might like, so you can discover things a little bit more passively or a little more, without have to tap on those boxes. It also has the more traditional VOD interface.”

The Carton Network app was preceded by the Cartoon Network Anything app, which Waldron describes as “a 15-second randomized experience, where one piece of content leads into the next.”

“There weren’t always videos,” he explained. “There could be games, little trivia, little drawing activities… all kinds of things.”

The Daily Dot