Twitter is bringing March Madness to the mobile masses.
Starting tonight, when the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off, hoops junkies can view highlights from all 67 games within a few minutes of them happening via Twitter.
The first video tweet is expected during Game 1 (tipoff 6:40 p.m. ET) on TruTV when North Carolina A&T faces Liberty in Dayton, Ohio. Users can watch videos from phones, tablets and PCs without leaving Twitter.
"Instant replay plays to Twitter's strength of news in real time and on mobile," says Glenn Brown, director of promoted content and partnerships at Twitter, which is partnering with Turner Broadcasting. A third party, Silicon Valley-based SnappyTV, is supplying the underlying technology to deliver 15-second video highlights. Consumers can follow @marchmadness for video.
The "instant replay" concept, which Twitter introduced last year with ESPN for college bowl game highlights, offers Twitter a way to strike Aup ad sponsorships. It also fortifies Twitter's format for brands to embrace the microblogging service.
As Twitter girds for a potential mega-initial public offering this year, there are lingering questions about its ability to generate enough revenue to justify the public offering. The company is valued at nearly $10 billion, although its worldwide ad revenue is projected to be $545.2 million this year, according to researcher eMarketer.
Eventually, eMarketer estimates Twitter will account for 13% of U.S. social-advertising revenue by 2014 ($807.5 million), compared with 5.5% last year ($288.3 million).
"This is very significant, since not much video is viewed on Twitter now," says Greg Sterling, a social-media analyst. "There is an opportunity for them to attract new categories of advertisers, with promoted tweets."
AT&T and Coke Zero are sponsoring the March Madness videos, as Ford Fusion sponsored the college bowl game clips. (Both brands are sponsors of the NCAA tournament.)
The replays, which will begin with a short clip from AT&T or Coke Zero, will be selected by TV production teams covering the 21-day tournament.
Twitter's Brown says the idea of posting real-time video on mobile devices via Twitter has created "lots of interest from advertising networks" for sports and non-sports events.
Turner executives agree. "We absolutely see applications across our properties (sports, news and entertainment)" and are "trying to be smart about it," says Walker Jacobs, executive vice president of digital ad sales at Turner. "We intend to broaden our partnership with (Twitter)."
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