McDonald's Wants Diners to Stay Longer

LOS ANGELES -- McDonald's is a fast-food giant, but that doesn't mean the global chain wants its customers to rush in and out. The company will soon encourage its diners to linger through the McDonald's Channel, a new digital network that will provide exclusive original content, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Programming for the channel will be customized to the interests of specific communities and include local news as well as features with nationwide appeal. Reality TV producer Mark Burnett, BBC America and KABC-TV Eyewitness News will contribute to the network's content.

Following a test run in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego, the McDonald's Channel is set for a slow launch and will debut in 800 California McDonald's courtesy of Los Angeles' ChannelPort Communications, which specializes in entertainment content, technology and brand management, according to the report. Company executives predict the channel will reach 18 to 20 million viewers per month and could expand nationwide if well-received.

"The intention is to catch and engage the customer, and then enhance their experience," said ChannelPort founder Leland Edmondson. "The McDonald's customer is everyone, and we want not to be passive viewers, but to be active and participatory with this network."

Participating McDonald's restaurants will have two high-definition, 42- to 46-inch screens that will be visible from 70 percent of the eating areas. Audio will be pumped from the screen or ceiling-mounted speakers, however, quiet zones will also be available.

Channel programming will be shown in one-hour cycles that consist of 20- to 22-minute installments, or "pods," the Times reported. Each component will offer several segments, such as "The McDonald's Achievers," which covers local high school and college athletics, and "Mighty Moms," featuring local mothers who juggle home life with sports careers. "McDonald's Channel Music News" will also cover acts, tours and new releases, and Burnett's "Vimby" will cover fashion, lifestyle and culture news and more.

"We believe there are so many screens in America that people are able to watch on and aggregate," said Burnett. "And it's more than sitting at home watching TV. Our company can do digital content on a national scale, but with a local focus."

Advertising will air for approximately eight minutes each hour, with McDonald's ads running around a minute and a half. "This network is not intended to be all about McDonald's," noted Edmondson. "It is all about the consumer."

Currently, around 70 percent of McDonald's business is drive-through, according to the report. The McDonald's Channel will give customers another reason to come inside and stay for a while, according to company officials.

"People today are using our restaurants differently than they have in the past," said Danya Proud, spokeswoman for McDonald's USA. "They've become more of a destination. With McDonald's restaurants offering Wi-Fi, we've become more relevant and contemporary."