News Column

Twitter, Comcast hope joint project clicks

October 10, 2013


Oct. 10--Twitter strengthened its ties to the television industry Wednesday by collaborating with media conglomerate Comcast to turn tweets into a TV remote control.

But while the Twitter-Comcast announcement highlighted a new "See It" button that will let Comcast cable subscribers view or record TV shows, the strategic partnership could also bring more advertising revenue to the San Francisco microblogging service. And that could give Twitter executives a better story to tell when they try to persuade Wall Street investors to buy into the company's impending $1 billion initial public offering.

Measuring behaviors

"Advertising is a goal here as clearly that is where Twitter will get their revenues," said Gartner research director Brian Blau in an e-mail.

"But to get there, Twitter needs to have engagement mechanisms that really do drive these new behaviors, and ones that can be measured directly are much better at showing their value than the more nebulous connection between tweet activity and show popularity."

See It feature

Comcast said its engineers have created See It, a feature that will be available in November to the company's Xfinity TV cable subscribers. Comcast, the largest U.S. cable TV operator, also owns NBCUniversal, which runs 30 broadcast and cable networks, including NBC, USA, Bravo, Syfy and the Golf Channel.

Shows like "The Voice" will send tweets with the embedded See It button linking to Xfinity TV's mobile phone and tablet apps. Clicking the button will allow users to view the show or record it for later.

In a statement, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts called it "a leap forward in social TV."

"See It is a simple yet powerful feature that creates an instant online remote control," Roberts said.

The feature isn't exactly magical. The Xfinity app can already change channels on a cable box and set the DVR. But both Twitter and Comcast are trying to tap into a growing pool of viewers who tweet and retweet about shows they like or are watching.

According to a recent Nielsen survey, 70 percent of TV-related tweets are sent while the program is airing, while 30 percent are transmitted during commercials.

Nielsen itself has teamed with Twitter on a new social TV ratings system. There were a total of 17.9 million TV-related tweets for the week that ended Sunday, and the series "Scandal" on ABC topped the Nielsen Twitter TV ratings chart.

The See It feature, which Comcast says it will offer to other TV networks and websites, taps into "a growing trend with consumers that favor convenience and getting immediate results for their actions," Blau said.

"The new tune-in functionality won't replace remote controls, but I think we will see more of these mobile-to-tv technology connections that let us better manage how we consume media across all of the platforms and devices we use."

Comcast also announced it would use Twitter's Amplify sponsored-tweets product to promote NBC shows with real time video clips embedded into tweets. The two companies said they were also "exploring additional opportunities to integrate social TV conversations."

'Second screen'

Twitter has repeatedly pushed its ties to TV viewers, and its IPO plans highlight the company's "leveraging Twitter's strength as a second screen for television programming."

"Twitter is where television viewers come to talk about what they're watching on TV when they're watching it," Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said in the joint press release with Comcast. "Millions of users are exposed to the live conversation that unfolds on Twitter while a show is on the air and now, with See It, they'll be able to tune in directly from a Tweet."

Benny Evangelista is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:


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