How Apple’s Media Partners Prepped for the Launch of the Apple Watch

“If you think of your phone app as a latte, your watch app is a single espresso,” says Watchup CEO Adriano Farano

Apple Watch

When the Apple Watch was first unveiled last September, Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as “the most personal device we’ve ever created.” For Apple’s media partners, that has meant pursuing content strategies unlike any they’ve pursued before.

“This is a totally different experience,” said Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Product Development. In the same way that the Apple Watch closely monitors your health, ESPN’s Apple Watch app zeroes in on the sports teams, scores and breaking news that is most relevant to you.

“This is the most personal version of ESPN yet,” said Andrew Machado, a key player on ESPN’s product team. In an interview with The Wrap, Machado noted the design is meant to keep you from “constantly scaling through stuff that is not relevant to you.”

More than 3,000 Apple Watch apps are available in the App Store. For app developers, the effort is expected to be worth it. This week, Wall Street analysts Daniel Ives and James Moore of FBR Capital called the Apple Watch the “silver bullet” for wearables, estimating Apple will sell 20 million of the devices in fiscal 2015 (which ends in late September). While the Apple Watch officially becomes available April 24, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one in an Apple Store. Instead, early birds who pre-ordered two weeks ago will begin receiving the device.

“Less Is More”

Along with personalizing the watches, app developers have had to be creative, given the limited real estate available on the Apple Watch. They’re creating content for a very small screen, especially when compared to smartphones, tablets and televisions.

“From a storytelling standpoint, size matters,” Watchup CEO Adriano Farano said. “Media apps need to offer minimalistic and carefully crafted content items. If you think of your phone app as a latte, your watch app is a single espresso.”

Apple Watch apps (Apple)

Watchup creates customized online video newscasts, based on content partnerships it has with TV news outlets like Tribune Media and Fox News. For its Apple Watch app, Watchup users can preview the latest 10 stories in their personalized newscasts. But the previews simply consist of a headline, a thumbnail and a channel source. 

“For the Apple watch design, less is more,” Farano said.

Meanwhile, the ESPN app focuses on richer experiences around notifications; for example, team logos play a simple, yet powerful role in game score updates.

What Time Is It?

Of course, beyond customization and simplicity, media partners have had the opportunity to tailor their content around around the fact that this is a watch.

“People like to watch the news at a specific time,” Farano said. “Watchup’s app for the Apple Watch recreates that ritual by allowing users to set an alert when their newscast is ready.”


At the Apple Watch’s official launch event last month, Tim Cook singled out its “Glances” feature, saying during his keynote that it “allows you to check things very quickly for those things you check most frequently.” Cook highlighted things like your calendar, your music and the weather.

For Apple’s media partners, that translates into a focus on bite-sized content that is easily consumed on the go. The “Disney Moment” app, for example, has mini-quizzes, historical facts and quotes from Disney characters.

Andrew Stalbow, CEO of LA-based mobile gaming company Seriously, said he sees the Apple Watch as “a hugely important media platform built around Twitter-like short-form content experiences.”

Media partners hope those experiences will complement the Apple ecosystem, for which they’ve already created countless apps. According to research firm Slice Intelligence, 72 percent of the people who purchased an Apple Watch in the U.S. on the first day of pre-orders had purchased an Apple product in the past two years, with nearly one-third purchasing two Apple products in that stretch.

In Seriously’s case, it created an Apple Watch app that acts as a companion to its popular mobile game ‘Best Fiends.’ If you’re waiting in line, it’s a way to engage in some quick game play, with tie-in’s to its iPhone offering.

ESPN shares a similar philosophy. “It’s really an extension of your core device, your core ESPN app, which is more robust,” Spoon said.