New NBCUniversal Streaming App Rewards Viewers for Watching Shows

WatchBack
NBCUniversal's Watchback app.

The idea behind WatchBack is for the media giant to learn about consumption habits, data that is often not available to NBC when someone watches a show on linear television.

How can a show develop new fans in the age of Peak TV? Executives at NBCUniversal have launched a new app to find out. 

The company on Oct. 5 debuted WatchBack, an app that creates a personalized experience for users and rewards viewing with the chance to win prizes. Described internally as a marketing tool to promote content from NBCU and its partners, the free WatchBack app offers up a mix of full-length episodes of shows from across NBCU's networks, video clips, and web series from digital outlets like BuzzFeed, CollegeHumor and Refinery29. None of the videos is exclusive to the app, and the full-length episodes will only be available for a limited time. 

"With so many options available, our research has shown that many great new shows have trouble finding their audience," said Andrew Hanna, vp insights and strategy at NBCUniversal. "The long-term goal of WatchBack is to make it just a little easier for consumers to try out new programs for the first time and create fans for us and our partners."

People who download WatchBack are prompted to sign in and complete a profile about viewership preferences. The app then becomes customized to the individual user, showing preselected channels and serving up themed sections on topics like "World Animal Day" or "Trending Now." Inside the app is a tab called "Thank You" where viewers can enter to win weekly sweepstakes. There is also a "Donate" tab where sweepstakes winnings can be gifted to a preselected charity. 

At launch, WatchBack is promoting two full-length episodes from both E!'s Ashlee+Evan and Model Squad. Viewers who watch each of the episodes of Ashlee+Evan will be entered to win $100. Per the app, 10 winners will be selected per episode. Future promoted shows will include CNBC's Warren Buffett: Investor. Teacher. Icon and Oxygen's Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers

NBCU designed WatchBack, which it will operate as an independent brand, to encourage show sampling among viewers. It will feature Nielsen measurement to help NBCU and its partners learn about consumption habits, data that is often not available to the network when someone watches a show on linear television. 

While WatchBack will not serve as a stand-alone streaming service for NBCU programming, it will offer the company a similar direct line to consumers, giving executives the ability to receive immediate feedback from viewers about what is driving their interest in a particular show. It will also direct viewers back to linear or digital destinations where they can find more of the content they enjoy, and in the future could target them with marketing for shows in which they have expressed interest. Key to this effort will be encouraging users to download the app, which is currently available exclusively on the App Store and will launch soon on Google Play.