Not only did the physical filming location for change with the passing of The Tonight Show torch from Jay Leno to Jimmy Fallon, the digital experiences did as well. To coincide with the premiere of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, NBC launched a new website and second screen app experience. The app is available on both iOS and Android devices. The Tonight Show is not the first late night show to have its own second screen app. Conan O’Brien released the Team Coco app a couple years ago which earned an Emmy nomination in 2013 for Best Interactive Program. Let’s examine the new Tonight Show app under the same key criteria used for the review of the Team Coco second screen experience: Control, Discovery, Sharing, and Enhancement.
Control: Despite Comcast owning NBC and Xfinity, there is no current integration of the app and the MVPD set top box. There is plenty of promotion for the new show in the Xfinity On-Demand guide news though (found on channel 1). While remote function is not a critical integration in a release version of a network show app, I would have expected at the bare minimum for the app to issue reminder alerts or have some form of calendar integration. Possible one or both of those will roll out in future updates.
The central hub for the app is a rather confusing user experience. The top navigation slider shows a list of upcoming guests which you would think might provide more details or set a reminder to tune-in. They do not. Selecting an image just prompts the user to tweet that person’s name as a hashtag along with the general one for the show (#TonightShow). The middle consists of a very large slider with a GE partner image, Jimmy’s Arcade, current social hashtag promotion (latest and top rated responses in the lower area), and a single skit video. Where is the navigation to see more clips or show content? Somehow the user must figure out they need to click the GE banner ad to dive deeper into the show related content. After viewing or opting to close the GE video, you arrive at your destination which looks remarkably like the show website. That’s because it is the show website wrapped in the app frame. Don’t try to watch an episode through the app though, as that isn’t supported on the app devices, despite being shown as available on the webpage rendered in the app. You can even select the ad on the website prompting you to download the app…while you’re inside the app, but that might induce some form of Tonight Show web app inception so venture there at your own risk.
Discovery: There’s really not much to discover inside the native area of the app besides a quick scroll of the guest line-up and a video skit that updates daily. Users can opt to dive deeper into show content on the website within the app, assuming they passed the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade leap of faith trial by clicking on the large GE ad without any prompting of the content that lies hidden behind it. This wrapper experience is a bit clunky and as I previously mentioned, not all elements will render. There is a lot of great info on the site to dive deeper into musical guests, skits, jokes, and more, but you’re better off just going straight to the website and bypassing the app until the content is built for the app – hopefully, planned for a future release.
Sharing: One of the most exciting aspects that Jimmy Fallon brings to The Tonight Show is a younger and more digital savvy audience. Digital savvy audience means the need for lots of Twitter integration into the app and show. Fallon’s show will regularly feature fan submitted content around a specific hashtag which is prominently featured in the app. Fans can see the most recent commentary around the hashtag as well as the most popular posts and submit their own in hopes of being featured in the on air segment. This is a great way to build some buzz leading up to each show. Don’t expect to use the app as a replacement for your regular Twitter app during the show itself though. The social feeds found in the app are specific to the promo and not the general show hashtag. This would be an ideal place to surface real time popular comments, create custom feeds, and other ways to tailor the Twitter conversation experience for the user for all things Tonight Show. While featuring the current hashtag promo is important, the omission of using it for other purposes feels like a big missed opportunity to increase interactions with the show app.
Enhancement: When I first heard about The Tonight Show launching a second screen app, I immediately assumed there would be additional exclusive content synced with the show broadcast since that is the most common network/show produced experience. After downloading the app and not seeing that feature, I figured it was only available during the live broadcast through pushed delivery (example: AMC’s Story Sync) instead of another synced method like audio content recognition which works for live and on-demand viewing (example: Syfy Sync or TNT Falling Skies). After firing up the app during a live broadcast, I discovered the app does not relay across any information during the show. While this is certainly not a requirement for a show app, it was definitely surprising to not find any real time show related info beyond the current promo hashtag. As was previously mentioned, there is additional content for fans to enhance their Jimmy Fallon Tonight Show fandom located on the website – which you can access through a wrapper in the app if you choose, but the experience is not ideal.
There is one fun addition to enhance the experience for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon fans: video games. The app currently features 4 different casual games with Fallon as the main character, all done in a retro 8-bit NES style. I do believe gaming to be an important element for multi-platform transmedia TV entertainment so I was excited to see this addition. None of the games are designed for play during the show or are required to extend show content, but they do provide another reason to pick up and play around with the app.
Overall, the app experience feels incomplete and rushed. Given the historical significance of a new Tonight Show host combined with the appeal Fallon has to a younger audience, I would have expected the app to be a little more advanced right out of the gate and not look like an early beta test. While incorporating hybrid HTML5 designs can be very useful and allow for real time customizations, simply wrapping an entire website in an app without any modification seems like a bandaid fix to meet the show premiere deadline. Sure, they have plenty of time and version updates to get to the same level as the Conan app, but right now this isn’t even in the same ballpark. Apps like this one are the reason so many media pundits claim that the second screen standalone app is dead and that users should just use Twitter or Facebook natively. Unless significant changes are in the works, this is a second screen / social TV app (even calling it that is not exactly true) fans should avoid.
[All images were personally screen-grabbed from the iPad app]