- Toymaker Lego is the launch sponsor of a mobile gaming app from Turner's Cartoon Network that lets viewers collect digital cartoon figures by watching the network's shows, per an announcement. The "Cartoon Network Arcade" will initially feature games based on 15 shows and more than 60 digital characters for app users to collect.
- Tapping an on-screen "collect" button in the app will activate the mobile device's microphone to listen for a Cartoon Network show in the background. After detecting that the viewer is watching a show, the app unlocks the collectible figure.
- The gaming app will be available for free from Apple's App Store and Google Play on March 11. After that, Cartoon Network will release regular monthly updates with additional gaming content, per Variety.
Cartoon Network's gaming app is one way for the broadcaster to boost engagement with its shows, especially as younger viewers abandon TV viewing in favor of gaming apps and streaming video. By gamifying TV viewing, kids are encouraged to watch a variety of shows to complete their virtual collections, as fans of trading cards like Pokémon do. Cartoon Network developed the idea for the gaming app after the show "Mighty Magiswords" released an app tied to the cartoon. The network may make the collectible figures more interactive as it adds a wider range of features to the arcade app, Variety reported.
The growing popularity of smartphones and tablets also has challenged toymakers like Lego in the past decade to make their products more digital-facing. Lego this month debuted its first line of building blocks that work with a mobile app to show AR imagery. The "Lego Hidden Side" app will let kids see virtual ghosts in a series of eight "haunted" building sets that are expected to go on sale in August for $19.99 to $129.99.
Cartoon Network's arcade app arrives amid a growing trend of creating apps that interact with TV shows. Viacom-owned rival Nickelodeon has released several similar apps, including the Sky Whale mobile game. Nickelodeon last year updated its Screens Up app with augmented reality (AR) features that let kids interact with related content on a mobile device while watching the network's live TV shows.
Cable and satellite networks are looking for ways to engage viewers as cord-cutting hits record pace. The total number of pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. fell 4.1% in Q4 2018 from a year earlier. That drop was the biggest decline since the cord-cutting trend started in 2010, per data from MoffettNathanson Research cited by Fortune. The researcher said about 985,000 more customers dropped pay-TV service than signed up for it during the final three months of the year.