LOS ANGELES (AP) - The question of the moment at 700 pioneering McDonald's restaurants: You want TV with those fries?
Not just any television, but the custom-made M Channel, formulated and tested with the same attention to detail that made Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets cultural icons.
The channel’s aim is to offer exclusive content to entertain customers. More ambitiously, it also intends to create promotional and sales opportunities for record companies and others who want to dive into McDonald's vast customer pool.
“It is a vision that is more than television,” more than the “passive relationship” that viewers have with gas station or supermarket TV feeds, said Edmondson, who comes from a venture-capital background.
The M channel is akin to a broadcast network with its own news, entertainment and sportscasts localized for cities and even neighborhoods, he said. But there’s more: It will supersize the experience by directing viewers online for shopping or other opportunities.
Get details on a featured electronic toy or be among the first to download a music video discovered via M Channel. Want to get close to artists you heard on your coffee break? Enter to win backstage concert passes or maybe lunch with them (just a guess, but the location may not be optional).
M Channel’s goal is to target different audiences at different times of day and be so area-specific that a restaurant could show high school football game highlights to hometown fans, Edmondson said. News reports are taped by local station anchors for the channel.
Among those who have enlisted as content providers are producer Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Voice”), ReelzChannel and broadcast stations. A range of advertisers, minus other restaurants and perhaps alcoholic beverages, will be welcome, Edmondson said.
For now, the programming is in its infancy. At a McDonald's in Costa Mesa, south of Los Angeles, a flat-screen TV tucked in a corner showed an hour-long loop that included weather; a trivia quiz that promoted “Jeopardy!”; features on windsurfing in Maui and auto racing, and a Hollywood movie report packaged by ReelzChannel.
A mom grabbing a meal with her two children briefly glanced at a tech segment on back-to-school products including computers and smartphones before exiting.
Other diners sitting close to the TV were buried in their laptops, phones or magazines, the screen showing the distinctive arched “M” logo merely providing wallpaper.
Ruby Lua of Santa Ana, who works at a nearby supermarket, took a break from texting to say she preferred the satellite feed the restaurant used to show. How about if the channel offered music and related downloads?
“That would be more interesting,” said the 18-year-old Lua, perking up.
That opening is just what Edmondson wants to exploit.