Comcast and Twitter Partner to Create Virtual 'Water Cooler Effect'

By Peter Bernstein October 09, 2013

It is no secret that television watching has become a fragmented and, in many instances, a time-shifted activity for most of us, much to the consternation of broadcasters and advertisers. However, with the announcement of a partnership, Comcast, its NBCUniversal subsidiary and Twitter are looking to change all of that. 

The partnership actually includes two separate undertakings. In the first, leveraging that second screen most of us have in arms reach when we are viewing TV, Comcast engineers have created a new feature called “See It” that will give millions of customers of Comcast’s Xfinity cable service the ability to instantly access TV shows, movies and sports directly from a Tweet.  See It will debut in November with shows from NBCUniversal’s networks.

The best way to think of this is that you will now be able to use Twitter as your remote control, and as a way to share your feelings in real time on the popular social media. The goal is simple, increase real-time viewership as well as enrich viewer engagement with content, particularly that of advertisers.


Source: Comcast

In the second part of the partnership, NBCUniversal and Twitter also will be working on a new advertising partnership that will enable NBCUniversal’s advertising clients to expand their TV and digital sponsorships to Twitter. Through Twitter’s Amplify program, NBCUniversal’s entire portfolio – two broadcast networks, Spanish and English language, 17 cable networks and more than 50 digital properties – can extend the reach of its advertising campaigns and sponsorships to its audiences on Twitter and drive tune-in to its programming. The agreement also provides NBCUniversal’s advertising clients with access to Twitter’s promoted platform.

Building back the audience for live TV  

As noted in the headline, back in the good old days we all watched the same thing at the same time and the next day sat around the office water cooler and shared our opinions of what we had seen. However, the explosion of content consumption options—not just number of channels available but also the use of DVRs, streamed content from the Internet and other services including Netflix and Hulu—has meant not just time-shifted viewing, but also the ability for us to ignore/skip advertising thereby devaluing the real-time experience on several fronts. It created a real disruption in the entire television food chain.

TV advertising is still arguably the most effect way to reach a mass audience, but the masses because of time-shifted viewing and alternatives have caused ratings to decline for years and called into question the amount of dollars advertisers are willing to commit to supporting live broadcasts other than athletic events, concerts and news shows. In this context, See It really is a clever way to change the game that goes beyond the current apps that give smartphones and tablets simple remote control functionality. It is all about the power of Twitter.

Twitter is the hook to reverse the real-time viewing decline. By combining remote control capabilities with instant access to what somebody has been told is “must see TV,” the See It feature has the potential to draw viewers back to content as it is initially distributed. This is viewed as a win for:

  • Comcast and NBCUniversal to drive ratings and ad rates
  • Advertisers to maximize their marketing spend of TV
  • Viewers who get the emotional satisfaction of sharing the experience as it happens

It is the creation of a virtual and potential powerful next generation “water cooler effect,” and the partners are betting it will alter viewing habits and allow them better monetization opportunities.

See It & Twitter—how it works

As we all are aware, especially if we have or pay attention to our kids, Twitter is used today for millions of real-time conversations about live television shows. With See It, Xfinity TV customers who discover new shows and movies in their Twitter feeds will be able to tune-in to those programs with the click of a button. It combines instant gratification with ease of use and socialization.

The See It button will enable a menu of consumption options, including being able to:

  • Tune to live TV or start a show On Demand on their set-top box
  • Tune in to a show online or on their mobile device
  • Set DVRs
  • Set a reminder
  • Buy theater tickets through Fandango

“See It is a simple yet powerful feature that creates an instant online remote control,” said Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation. “Comcast is taking a leap forward in social TV by enabling Twitter users to more easily find and view the shows they want to watch and discover new shows.  Twitter complements the live viewing experience and is an ideal partner for Comcast and NBCUniversal.”

"Twitter is where television viewers come to talk about what they’re watching on TV when they’re watching it.  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,” said Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter.  “It’s a great example of Comcast’s leadership in bringing TV to new platforms.”

This season, NBCUniversal television shows on the following networks will use See It on Twitter:  NBC, NBC Sports Network (NBCSN), CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, E!, Esquire Network and The Golf Channel.  Shows include: The Voice (NBC), The Blacklist (NBC), Chicago Fire (NBC), The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC), Sunday Night Football (NBC), Access Hollywood, NHL, Premier League Soccer, Sochi Olympics (NBC and NBCSN), Today Show (NBC), Psych and Suits (USA), among others.

It is also noteworthy that the new See It feature was designed to integrate with other video distribution partners, television networks and websites. In fact, the partners are in discussions with additional distribution partners and television networks that will use this feature to promote their content in the coming months.

NBCUniversal and Twitter Advertising Partnership

The NBCUniversal and Twitter new advertising partnership is significant as well. As Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, stated, “NBCUniversal’s content is driving the most popular conversations in social media...Now with this partnership, our advertisers will be able to reach even more of the specific audiences that they desire.” The reality is that the simultaneity of these initiatives speaks to the value of the ecosystem the partners are attempting to build and evolve.

NBC Sports Group is the first NBCUniversal property to participate in the new advertising partnership by delivering Premier League short-form video highlights sponsored by General Electric to fans within Twitter's social framework. The new agreement expands the reach of the sport, while also increasing the consumption of NBC Sports video.

Additionally, E! and USA Network are two of the earliest adopters and today are leading entertainment brands on Twitter.  USA Network is putting this partnership to full use as it rolls out its second screen campaign for Modern Family beginning Oct. 18 with its on-air TGIMF (Thank Goodness its Modern Family) Family Friday marathon. E! is working with key advertising partners to amplify their messages and custom content across the brand's marquee events this holiday season and into the all-important red carpet events in 2014. This expanded functionality combined with the new NBCUniversal Amplify agreement enables USA and E! to reach new audiences in real-time and give brands more innovative ways to reach consumers.

Over the past several years the major media companies have been searching for ways to leverage the broad reach of social media as they have watched their audiences dwindle. Comcast and Twitter certainly seem to be on to something that holds out the real possibility of getting large segments of the population back and engaged in programming in real-time. It will be interesting to see not just how effective the partnership is in changing the game, but also how fast this is emulated by competitors. 

As a FiOS user, all I can hope is that Verizon gets with the program, sooner rather than later. In fact, a Tweet of this item to them would be greatly appreciated.




Edited by Alisen Downey
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