McDonald’s in the U.S. is preparing to roll out the first large-scale screen network in its restaurants, a move that may mark the beginning of a nationwide in-store TV service for the fast-food giant – long regarded as one of the biggest potential catches for the digital out-of-home business.
According to widely-repeated reports by the Los Angeles Times and Reuters, the McDonald’s Channel will reach around 18-20m consumers monthly through 800 restaurants in southern and central California.
It is not clear why this region was chosen for the first rollout; the chain was founded there, but is now headquartered in Illinois.
However, what is amply apparent is that – unlike many previous reported McDonald’s DOOH networks which have turned out to be small-scale franchisee initiatives involving only a few restaurants – this is an effort directed from much higher up in the organisation.
The channel has already been tested not only in Los Angeles and San Diego, but also in New York, Seattle and some smaller locations in Oklahoma, suggesting that McDonald’s is at least contemplating an extension of the network throughout the U.S., where it has some 13,000 locations.
Operated by the Los Angeles firm ChannelPort Communications, hitherto unknown in the DOOH sector, the McDonald’s Channel will run a one-hour loop of content with less than eight minutes given to advertising, for both McDonald’s and other brands.
The majority of the loop will be occupied by infotainment content in slots of 90 seconds to two minutes, with longer versions of some items available via mobiles and PCs. This will include material from Vimby (Video In My Back Yard), the production company created by reality-TV pioneer Mark Burnett; BBC America; and KABC-TV Eyewitness News, a Los Angeles channel. More localised content is expected to come in due course, focusing on sports.
Each outlet will have two screens in the 42-to-46-inch range, with audio, although about a third of each restaurant will be a “quiet zone” away from the screens and sound.
McDonald’s is not the first big name in the U.S. fast-food and casual-dining sectors to turn to place-based TV – the DOOH specialist IndoorDirect has, for example, recently won substantial contracts with Denny’s and Taco Bell.
But if this rollout is successful in its goal of making McDonald’s restaurants destinations once again, rather than merely places to pick up a quick (often drive-thru) snack, it is likely that management not only at the Golden Arches but also at its competitors will be looking to repeat the formula elsewhere.