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Twitter tunes in to TV partnerships

07 October 2013, 15:47

New York - People don't just watch TV anymore; they talk about it on Twitter. From the comfort of couches, they share reactions to touchdowns and nail-biting season finales - and advertisers and networks are taking notice.

Examples of Twitter's influence abound. The recent finale of Breaking Bad generated a record 1.24 million tweets. The conversation peaked at 22 373 tweets per minute according to analytics firm SocialGuide.

People used the hash tag "GoodbyeBreakingBad" nearly 500 000 times. During this year's Super Bowl, sports fans generated 24 million tweets about the competition and nearly half of the game's nationally televised commercials contained hash tags that encouraged viewers to tweet.

Twitter, said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer, "creates a community, a bond between people that doesn't really exist without Twitter".

As Twitter prepares for its initial public offering, the San Francisco-based company is also working hard to insert itself into the TV advertising economy.

Revenue stream

In recent months, the social networking company has forged partnerships with television content owners such as CBS, MTV and the NFL through a programme it calls Amplify.

The platform lets content owners beam real-time video clips to Twitter users who may have seen - or could be interested in - their TV programming. It also allows marketers to communicate with viewers who saw their TV ads, extending commercial pitches to consumers' smartphones and tablets.

TV tie-ins allow Twitter to diversify its revenue stream beyond the relatively small niche of digital advertising campaigns, a move that should appeal to potential investors.

On Thursday, Twitter unsealed documents for a Wall Street debut that could take place before 28 November. While the company did not reveal how much money it makes from its TV partnerships, it touted its own "strength as a second screen for television programming".

Twitter's public nature makes it an especially attractive platform for tracking live-TV conversations. So much so that Nielsen recently began using Twitter's data to measure online social activity around TV programming, starting with this fall's TV season.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimates that Twitter gets just a small fraction of its revenue from the TV deals - around 1%. But by next year, the deals could amount to 5%, and 15% the year after, he said.


Twitter isn't alone in its quest to befriend TV content companies. Facebook, too, is recognising the value of live TV chatter. Because of its sheer size - nearly 1.2 billion users versus Twitter's 218 million - Facebook has more conversations than any other social network.
For now, Facebook's TV partnerships are not intended to generate revenue, the company says. Rather, they are "focused on helping people discover great content", said Justin Osofsky, Facebook's vice president of media partnerships.

Over the past few months, Facebook has rolled out more Twitter-like features as competition between the world's leading social networks heats up. There are now hash tags on Facebook, and the company is encouraging celebrities to use its site to interact with fans - just as many of them do on Twitter.

- AP


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