NASA wants to be your new favorite streaming app

NASA is taking a page from big time TV streaming services as it revamps its multimedia offerings. The agency relaunched its longstanding NASA TV service – now called NASA plus, with a new mobile app to go with it. For more, Federal News Network’s Jared Serbu spoke to Rebecca Sirmons, executive producer for NASA TV.

Interview Transcript: 

Jared Serbu Okay, Rebecca, a lot of multimedia assets to talk about here today, but let’s start with NASA plus. How should people think about it differently than the NASA TV that we’ve come to know and love over the last many years?

Rebecca Sirmons Well, NASA plus is NASA’s new official ad free, on demand streaming service. Kind of like, a Netflix, but NASA. So it has some of the greatest stories ever told all in one place. You know, one of our taglines is we’re putting, you know, the universe at your fingertips. So, it’s premium content. It’s the official home for live broadcasts, and tons of NASA’s infamous archival that goes over decades. So, I’m really excited to have it all in one place where people can find it.

Jared Serbu And what was kind of the inspiration for the for the idea that you needed to relaunch this? And in essence, I mean, it could because it’s not just a rebranding of what you had been doing before. It’s, I think it’s more of a transition from linear content to more on demand. Is that about right?

Rebecca Sirmons Yep, so when I got here, you know, I come from the private sector. I’m a TV person, right? I was a television executive for almost 20 years out in L.A., and I came out here and I was honored to take this task on, and I knew it was going to be a massive effort. The great news is I didn’t have to do it by myself. We had tons of content already there. It was just a matter of going around and collecting, all of this amazing content that they have been making for years now. Also looking at some of the future missions and what we have coming up and also like current activities as well, looking at, okay, how can we make an amazing documentary? How can we tell this NASA story through the resources that we already have? You know we didn’t go out. I didn’t have a budget. We didn’t have a budget to do this. It was a matter of what can we do? What can we work with? You know what we already have? And it’s, you know, it’s incredible. The difference between, you know, linear TV and what we have now is that everything’s on demand and you can watch it when you want to watch it. It’s free, there’s no subscription required. There are obviously no ads. And it’s one of the things that I’m personally proud of is its family friendly, right. Like there aren’t that many places you can go to. As far as a streaming service is concerned, that’s family friendly 100%. So, something that I’m really excited for the future generation to see.

Jared Serbu And the new relaunched app is one way people can get access to NASA. Plus, I must say the app the UX is better than most commercial streaming services apps that I’ve seen.

Rebecca Sirmons Thank you. Wow.

Rebecca Sirmons picture, NASA TV plus

Jared Serbu It really is. I mean, talk a bit about how you approach that and what you prioritized as you decided to, redo the app.

Rebecca Sirmons Yes. And I will say it’s a tremendous, team effort. You know, I’m going to give a shout out Jason Townsend, who, you know, was kind of leading the overall team for the app development, you know, as well as the web modernization. You know, there were several things happening at once. I was brought on to do NASA plus. So, handling kind of all the overall layout and the content and kind of getting new stuff on there, treating it as it were, like a network. Right. And then of course, we had our web modernization team. So, it’s been tested. They went through, several changes over the years. But this is something that we can all be proud of. And yeah, it’s about, you know, kind of stepping into the times and really showing people that we know what’s cool and we’re going to do that.

Jared Serbu Talk about how you went about developing this with no budget. Was this pretty much all internal? Did you have some contract support? How do you go about it?

Rebecca Sirmons Internal? I mean, it’s a lot. You know, it’s funny coming from the private sector. I worked in documentaries. To start out, you literally you learn how to do something with nothing. And the thing that we have at NASA is talent and we have creativity. I will say it’s the most creative place I’ve ever worked already, hands down. Because you’re, you know, you kind of have NASA it, right? You have something, you’re like, okay, how can we do this? And so, it’s looking okay. We have an amazing team here. So, I can go to that team and say, here’s what I need to do. Let’s try and figure out how to get there. And I was able to do that. I mean, working across the enterprise at NASA, I mean, there’s centers all over. It isn’t just a headquarters here. I’m working with Goddard, I’m working with Johnson. Kennedy, you know, all the centers were part of this. And so that was kind of the most beautiful thing about this, is really seeing the enterprise come together, you know, because we all wanted this to happen, and, so it’s something that we’re really proud of as an agency.

Jared Serbu And you said earlier, this is mainly a new way to present a ton of content that you already had and make it more accessible. I wonder, though, having these new channels and content delivery mechanisms, does it change the way NASA thinks about how it creates new content or create new opportunities for you to make new stuff?

Rebecca Sirmons Absolutely. So, I mean, already, you know, when I first started this job, I looked at, I was like, okay, well, obviously we’re going to need to figure out, you know, distribution and how we’re all working to do differently, you know, and, and so that’s that those methods are have already been established from day one. Now it’s more of, okay, how do we create content differently? You know, as far as, you know, putting together outlines, creative, you know, and going through and looking at it from like a more premium, point of view, because it’s all about storytelling and it’s how we tell that story, and the great thing that I’m extremely grateful for every day is the fact that we have talented people here already, you know, and that they did this not me. I just know how to kind of pull the levers, you know?

Jared Serbu I know it’s early days since the launch, but what kind of audience feedback have you gotten so far? Were you able to see anything in analytics that shows that you like this better?

Rebecca Sirmons So that’s something that I’ve been tracking daily, and we’ve gotten some great feedback. Obviously, there are little bugs here and there. That’s just how it is. That’s tech, you know. But as far as feedback, everybody loves it. You know, I will say as a parent, just hearing people say, oh my gosh, there’s a place there’s kids’ content, there’s NASA, kids’ content. I’m like, yes, you know, schools are watching it. You know, I was talking to a pediatric doctor recently. They’re like, oh, yeah, I actually showed kids at the hospital this. It’s incredible. The launch was, was seamless and now we’re looking at it as any, you know, streaming platform does. Okay. What can we move around. What can we make more effective? How you know, how do we look at this moving forward. And so that’s something that we’re constantly monitoring.

Eric White Rebecca Sermons is executive producer for NASA TV now NASA plus speaking there with Federal News Network’s Jared Serbu. You can find this interview at Federal News network.com. Search the space Hour coming up. Whether you like it or not, the US is definitely in a new space race. This is the Space Hour on Federal News Network. I’m Eric White.

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