October 17, 2011 – By Lisa Baertlein
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Welcome to McDonald's, would you like some TV with that?
McDonald's Corp <MCD.N> will roll out a high-definition television channel to nearly 800 restaurants in southern and central California by March. The world's biggest hamburger chain is doing this as part of a test, and one day hopes to take it across the United States.
Businesses from gas stations and grocery stores to coffee maker Starbucks Corp <SBUX.O> are beaming more entertainment directly to customers, trying to address a captive audience in a world crawling with entertainment options.
McDonald's Channel content partners include Walt Disney Co's <DIS.N> ABC, BBC America and reality television producer Mark Burnett, who is known for such hits as "Survivor" and "The Apprentice."
Test markets have include Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Manhattan, Seattle and some communities in Oklahoma.
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As it evolves, the McDonald's Channel will add more local programing such as high school sports news.
"We think that's a major part of the community that the channel can really bring to life," said Leland Edmondson, founder of ChannelPort Communications, which is overseeing the project. "We're talking to a number of sports properties."
The programing will include exclusive content and be made up of short spots ranging in length from 90 seconds to 20 minutes. Diners who want to see longer versions of some spots will have the option access them via mobile devices or home computers.
"There's no remote on the table, but there is Wi-Fi in the restaurant," Edmondson said.
Programs include "The McDonald's Achievers," profiles of local high school and college athletes; "Mighty Moms," about local mothers balancing families and careers in sports; and "Vimby" (Video In My Backyard), which has partnered with Burnett to cover local lifestyle news including fashion, art, music, action sports and nightlife.
The channel will show less than eight minutes of advertising per hour. McDonald's will take a fraction of that time, which will be shared with other brands, he said.
Eventually, every McDonald's in southern California will carry the channel, which will be seen by about 18 million McDonald's customers in the area each month, Edmondson said.
(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein. Editing by Robert MacMillan)