Time Warner Opens Medialab at New York Headquarters

Time Warner Center Manhattan New York City - H 2012
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Time Warner Center Manhattan New York City - H 2012

Biometric monitoring, eye-tracking capabilities, a screening room, video game stations and a retail environment are among the features of the facility that the entertainment giant will use to research consumers' reactions to content and advertising.

NEW YORK - Time Warner will on Wednesday formally unveil a newly established Medialab at its midtown Manhattan headquarters designed to provide cutting-edge research for its media and entertainment operations in the digital age.

The facility, whose capabilities TW representatives say they believe are unrivaled in the entertainment industry in the Big Apple, features biometric monitoring and eye-tracking capabilities, a 50-seat screening room, in-home living room simulation, video game stations, a retail environment, focus group space and  live broadcast capability that allows the likes of CNN to cover audience reaction research.

It will serve all of the conglomerate's units, including Warner Bros., the Turner cable networks, HBO and the Time Inc. publishing unit. Outside parties, such as marketers and advertising agencies, are also expected to come in to use the lab. The Medialab complements existing labs and research facilities at TW’s HBO, Time, Turner and Warner Bros. units.

TW's CNN used the lab for some consumer reaction research during the State of the Union address Tuesday night. Before that, HBO already used the lab to test the latest version of HBO Go, and Turner’s Adult Swim channel conducted biometrically-informed focus groups to test new shows and content. 

Turner is planning to experiment in the lab during March Madness to show audience interaction with the games on various devices. And Warner Bros. is expected to test trailers and theatrical product at the new facility, according to TW.

Research at the Medialab will also include such topics as consumers' use of mobile devices, video game players' engagement, which could be optimized via music choices and the like, people's interactions with ad content and the optimal look and positioning of magazines and DVDs on newsstand racks.    

Kristen O’Hara, chief marketing officer of TW's Global Media Group is heading up the Medialab, which will have two full-time staff and the ability to scale staffing depending on needs.

"As technology and distribution platforms are changing at such a rapid rate, it is a critical time to understand how consumers are interacting with our content," O'Hara told The Hollywood Reporter. "Can we change things in real time? Definitely."

Asked how the Medialab adds to the company's other research capabilities, she said: "It is an opportunity to make our research an even greater strategic asset for our company."

A Wednesday evening ribbon cutting ceremony for the Medialab at the Time Warner Center will include remarks from chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bewkes.

TW didn't disclose how much it spent on building the Medialab. TW's premier partner in creating it was market research firm Ipsos MediaCT. Innerscope Research, which specializes in neuroscience informed biometrics, and market research firm Schlesinger Associates are the conglomerate's other partners in the research facility.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai