The M channel is "a smart thing to do," said Valerie Folkes, a marketing professor at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business.
TV sets, which originally sprouted in auto service shops and elsewhere to keep customers distracted while cooling their heels, have new potential in a splintered media market.
"Advertisers face difficulties not only in reaching the right people but also in capturing their attention," Folkes said. "Here they have people who they know are customers and who are more inclined to listen to their message."
How will McDonald's Corp. judge M Channel's value?
"Ad revenues are important, but the channel must be positively received by our customers in order to be viewed as a success," said Brad Hunter, senior marketing director for McDonald's USA.
Philip Palumbo, who owns 11 McDonald's in San Diego County and is the marketing co-op head for the county's outlets, has seen an immediate benefit from the pilot project: No more complaints to workers about the network fare his customers saw via satellite.
"The content was not necessarily appropriate," Palumbo said. "The big things were politics. Others were violence, usually on the news, or medical stuff like showing surgery."
As Folkes of USC put it, "You can imagine a news story about 'pink slime' is not going to make a McDonald's customer eager to eat that Big Mac."
EDITOR'S NOTE — Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber(at)ap.org.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.