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June 25, 2019Jennifer King
For decades, viewers of top-rated TV quiz show Jeopardy! have shouted answers to trivia questions from their couches. With voice technology, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) saw a chance to give fans the experience of being contestants on the show, launching its first Alexa game skill, Jeopardy!. SPT has since launched another skill for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and continues to leverage voice as a valuable channel to enhance the customer experience and further grow their brand.
“Creating Jeopardy! for Alexa started as an experiment,” says Paul Joffe, who leads the games teams at Sony Pictures Television. “With the incredible growth of voice and the emergence of voice-first gaming and monetization, Jeopardy! was SPT’s first step into a new world of opportunity.”
Part of Joffe’s role at SPT is identifying new technologies that can expand SPT’s brand reach and generate revenue. With Alexa, Joffe saw the opportunity to do both. By investing in voice, SPT can reach customers across more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices, including demographics who don’t typically tune into game shows in their traditional timeslots. And by leveraging in-skill purchasing (ISP), SPT is offering players premium content, driving deeper engagement, and opening up new revenue streams.
“As a business, it's a huge strategic benefit to find ways to engage people who don’t regularly engage with your brand in its traditional format,” says Joffe. “Voice allows us to reach new customers and get them to engage with the brand in a whole new way.”
After decades on the air, it’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of Jeopardy! or Who Want to Be a Millionaire (WWTBAM). However, not everyone watches the shows on television. With the emergence of mobile apps, SPT was able to attract new customers to engage with their shows. Now Joffe’s team considers Alexa to be the next big technology shift, giving SPT the potential to reach more customers across a spectrum of demographics through voice.
“With Alexa, we can reach many fans in a new way, especially younger people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, any time of day they want,” says Joffe.
The Jeopardy! and WWTBAM skills provide players voice-first extensions of the TV game shows. Jeopardy! allows players to guess the trivia questions for the show’s “sixth clue” for each category. WWTBAM players try to answer a series of increasingly difficult trivia questions, but are provided two free “lifelines” to use if they need help answering a question (the “50-50 lifeline”) or happen to answer one incorrectly (an “Alexa save”).
“With Alexa, we could create an authentic Jeopardy! experience, including free-form response to the clues,” says Joffe.
Both Jeopardy! and WWTBAM have proven that for SPT, voice helps extend its brand reach by engaging new customers outside its usual channels. But Joffe’s team has another consideration besides evaluating the new technologies: generating revenue.
“It’s our job to look at new technology and be at the forefront of new innovations and new developments in the game space,” says Joffe. “But we also identify where SPT may invest time, resources, and money into opportunities that can eventually scale from a revenue standpoint.”
When Amazon introduced in-skill purchasing (ISP) for Alexa skills, Jeopardy! was the first Alexa game skill to implement the feature, allowing SPT to offer players optional premium features for purchase to enrich the Jeopardy! experience. SPT decided to add a familiar feature from the show—a round of Double Jeopardy!—as premium content. Customers can purchase a $1.99 monthly subscription that allows them to access the premium feature. Subscribers also get to play Catch Up, which lets them play clues from days they missed.
In contrast to Jeopardy!’s monthly subscription, WWTBAM utilizes a consumables model for offering in-skill products. When players run out of lifelines, they are offered a chance to purchase an additional lifeline so that they can continue the game. Once the customer uses the additional lifeline, they have the option to purchase more.
“It’s important to choose an in-skill product that’s appropriate in the context of the game,” says Joffe. “For WWTBAM, we had to think about what customers would be willing to buy, and a consumable product like lifelines was a very natural extension of what players would expect in the game.”
Joffe says skill developers have to be strategic not only about what in-skill products they offer customers, but when to offer them. For example, SPT offers Jeopardy! players the ability to play Double Jeopardy!, which requires a subscription, right after the end of the first round of six clues. In WWTBAM, the extra lifelines are offered only at the moment the player needs them. Joffe notes that it’s important to not offer the purchase too often to avoid annoying players who aren’t interested.
“In both games, we give customers a taste of the experience, then offer what seems like the natural next step in the game,” says Joffe. “Customers say they love the extended play they get with Double Jeopardy! and Catch Up. It’s just like they are on the show, but without ever missing a day.”
Jeopardy! may have started out as an experiment to test the waters of an emerging technology, but voice has now become a strategic channel through which SPT reaches new customers as well as its existing fan base. By offering premium content and experiences as in-skill products, SPT is engaging those customers more deeply with its games and building revenue-generating skills.
“Of the millions of people who engage with our brand via our Alexa skills, many are also regular fans of our TV games shows,” says Joffe. “The two channels are complementary, and we believe the voice channel will be steadily adding to our audience. That's a win for SPT and our brands.”
With ISP, you can sell premium content to enrich your Alexa skill experience. ISP supports one-time purchases for entitlements that unlock access to features or content in your skill, subscriptions that offer access to premium features or content for a period of time, and consumables which can be purchased and depleted. You define your premium offering and price, and we handle the voice-first purchasing flow. Download our introductory guide to learn more.