Last week, Viacom rolled out two new apps for the Xbox Live platform: Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. They are the latest in a series of networks jumping on the Xbox distribution platform in advance of the Xbox One launch later this year – The CW Network and Disney are two of the most recent. Nickelodeon’s app features all of the channel’s programming, but the Comedy Central app will focus only on stand-up performances. While these are the first apps for both networks on the Xbox, it is not the first connected viewing experience for either network. Earlier this year, CC: Stand-Up launched for iOS devices in June and Nickelodeon released its Nick app for the iPad in February. With the release of the Xbox 360 versions I wanted to take a quick look to see how the two compare to their iPad alternatives.
From a content perspective, both the CC: Stand-Up and Nick apps offer a similar programming line-up with minor variations from their iOS counterparts – Xbox versions do skew with mostly longer length video only content. Navigation looks quite similar to other Xbox TV apps with its uncluttered selection options and side scroll window changes. While both apps do require an Xbox Live membership, only the Nick app requires a cable subscription authentication to view full episodes. Xfinity is not supported so I was not able to view any full show episodes, but there is a decent selection of short videos and a few episodes for those who do not have a log-in. The Nick app also appeared to be the only of the two Xbox apps with integrated advertising. Both of the Xbox apps are relatively simple and neither offer anything unique for Xbox Live viewers. This is their first launch on Xbox and I hope the new Xbox One system will allow for a much richer experience that networks can leverage to create exciting environments to distribute content. At this time, there is no SmartGlass second screen companion viewing integration for either app.
The iPad apps offer a much wider range of interface options than the Xbox and both apps look quite different in the tablet versions. Social network integration is absent from both making these exclusively for content viewing and not designed for use as a second screen device (yes there is a difference, more here). Like their Xbox versions, the CC: Stand-Up app does not require any cable authentication and the Nick app requires it only for full episode viewing. Advertisements are present in both apps with the Comedy Central only choosing to air ads that cross-promote shows on the Comedy Central network – which makes sense considering their show line-up is not available. It would appear that the Nick tablet app pulls from the same partner ad inventory as its Xbox version since I was shown the same commercial repeatedly on both viewing experiences.
The tablet versions do differ in a few ways from their Xbox editions. The Nick tablet app includes games and interactive polls which are not available on the Xbox, but those would be great to see added to that experience. Where the two apps really show their differences are in the content discovery aspect for the users. The main CC: Stand-Up dashboard is full of video viewing screens for easy access to several different comedians without having to navigate to additional levels. The app even has a separate window dedicated to discovery – it’s actually called that. If the viewer is enjoying the current comedian, they can select this area of the app where they are presented with several choices of alternate entertainers complete with an explanation on how they are similar or connected. The Nick app, being geared to kids, has a much slicker interface with a lot of opportunity to explore visually. Users move around a very large pinboard style screen with content from all of Nickelodeon’s shows. On an alternate screen, viewers can select their favorite characters in order to tailor the content to feature more of their preferences in the larger dashboard. Even when the content is customized to a specific set of characters, Nick will still present other shows in the dashboard which helps expose viewers to other Nick shows and their characters. With so much content available, users can save items to a favorites tab to access them easily whenever they want – which I also imagine is feeding a recommendation engine. What the app lacks in a large catalog of full episodes it certainly makes up for in a wide range of short form content. Presentation in both apps is geared in style to its audience demographic and works well.
The tablet versions for both apps offer a much richer content experience with better visual interfaces than their Xbox counterparts. Navigation in the Xbox apps feels clunky and could use some help – Viacom isn’t the only network with this issue and I hope the new Xbox One interface will improve things here. Content discovery is much more likely to happen in the tablet versions as the presentation of new elements is a smoother experience. The launch editions of the Xbox apps feel like a scaled down version of what they already created in their respective tablet apps. Now that Viacom has taken the plunge and built an Xbox connected TV experience, they should look to improve the experiences as the next gen console gets ready to hit store shelves later this year.
Image Credit: Xbox photos courtesy of Microsoft.