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    McDonald's New ‘M Channel’ Aims to Entertain

    Pilot project launching at 700 test restaurants in California.

    LOS ANGELES -- McDonald's is no longer just a place to stop by for a quick meal of a Big Mac and French fries. At 700 restaurants in California, it's also testing ground for the custom-made M Channel, a network with the aim of entertaining customers with exclusive content, according to an Associated Press report.

    The channel will also offer promotional and sales opportunities for companies that want to reach the fast food king's large customer base.

    "It is a vision that is more than television that goes beyond the "passive relationship" customers have with gas station and grocery store television feeds, stated Lee Edmondson, who reportedly spent eight years developing the channel concept for McDonald's with his company ChannelPort Communications.

    The M Channel will air its own entertainment, news and sports reports based on local interests, as CSNews Online previously reported, but will also encourage viewers to go online for special shopping or other opportunities. The plan is for the network to target difference audiences depending on the time of day.

    Content providers that have signed up for the channel include reality TV producer Mark Burnett, ReelzChannel and broadcast stations, according to the report. Edmondson added that a range of non-restaurant advertisers, possibly including alcoholic beverages, will be welcome.

    The M Channel first began testing two years ago in a number of Western outlets but has since completed expansion to all California McDonald's restaurants from San Diego north to Bakersfield. Its programming, which airs on flatscreen TVs, is limited, but music companies have expressed interest.

    "Interscope values a new way of communicating to customers where our content is positioned front and center to a massive audience," Jennifer Frommer, Interscope's head of brand partnerships, told the AP. "The channel provides a platform to market music in ways that have never been done before."

    If McDonald's gives the channel its approval, M Channel could expand to approximately 14,000 operating in the U.S. within 18 months, said Edmondson. However, he declined to predict when such approval might be granted.

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