TV and Twitter

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TV and Twitter

Postby jon » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:35 pm

As viewers’ eyes wander, broadcasters turn to Twitter
By Matthew Braga, Financial Post
June 6, 2013

Rather than compete with smartphones and tablets for the attention of wandering eyes, television broadcasters are increasingly trying to embrace these second screens, where the majority of conversations during popular broadcasts and live events are taking place.

In particular, viewers are flocking to Twitter Inc., the popular online microblogging service, to share their thoughts, reactions, theories and complaints about what they see on TV in 140 characters or less. Such users represent a captive but untapped audience in the eyes of broadcasters – and, for advertisers, an opportunity to have their televised messages amplified across a plethora of media and screens.

“[But] it wasn’t Twitter or television that decided this relationship made sense,” said Mitch Joel, president of the Montreal-based digital marketing agency Twist Image. “It was the users. They defined what [this relationship] was.”

In other words, viewers decided on Twitter as the medium for discussion of the Oscars, last night’s hockey game or the latest episode of Mad Men. Brands and broadcasters are trying to keep up.


Earlier this week, both Bell Media and Shaw Media announced separate partnerships with Twitter and the service’s new Amplify advertising platform. Amplify is intended to help broadcasters augment their television programming on Twitter with embedded streaming video clips, Promoted Tweets and other content relevant delivered to a viewer’s computer or mobile device.

In a statement, Bell Media president Kevin Crull said the partnership was a commitment to “measuring, sharing and applying knowledge from passionate social conversations to help our advertisers’ brand campaigns become even more effective.”

Similar partnerships with U.S. broadcasters were announced in late May with BBC America, FOX and The Weather Channel, following succesful sports-based campaigns with EPSN and the NBA.

“TV is probably the the lowest hanging fruit,” said Mr. Joel.

“I think part of the reason why Twitter is moving forward with this platform is they probably have enough research that says there’s significant amount of usage during these [viewing] periods.”

Even before Twitter’s Amplify partnerships were formalized, the service had already established itself as a core part of broadcast TV. Primetime scheduling is littered with hashtags and Twitter handles printed on overlays, network bumpers and other bits of televised ephemera.

CBC, for example, spent the entirety of their NHL playoffs coverage with a “#hockeynight” hashtag on-screen. Television news broadcasts frequently post the handles of reporters on-screen — the millions of followers for broadcaster Bob McKenzie of TSN were explicitly mentioned in Bell Media’s partnership press release.

But users are already interacting with hashtags and the handles of household names without broadcasters’ prompting, so Twitter is trying to find organic ways to introduce television networks and media companies into the mix. For that reason the appointment of Kirstine Stewart, managing director of Twitter’s new Canadian operations, should come as no surprise, as she herself was the CBC’s executive vice-president of English language services until late April.

“Twitter has been a great complement to broadcasters, it’s been a great complement to all kinds of partners and content creators and what will be the next step is how can we deepen that relationship here in Canada,” said Ms. Stewart in an interview with the Financial Post from April.

How Twitter goes about deepening that relationship is no doubt something investors will be interested in too. According to a Bloomberg report from last month, the company wants to reach US$1-billion in sales by 2014. And while chief executive officer Dick Costolo has downplayed the potential for an IPO, the company is widely expected to make a public market debut in the near future. But ultimately, it all depends on how the users respond.

“We think these types of two-screen sponsorships are a win,” wrote Glenn Brown, Twitter’s director of promoted content and sponsorships, in Amplify’s announcement blog post.

“Users receive spectacular, timely content that rounds out their TV experience or reminds them to tune in.”

Neither Twitter, nor broadcasters, can afford to have them tune out.
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