Twitter big for small screen
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 note.
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 hashtag “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 hashtags 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 working hard to insert itself into the TV advertising economy. In recent months, the social networking company has forged partnerships with television content owners such as CBS, MTV and the NFL through a program 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 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.
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.
Nielsen will release its first “Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings” report on Monday. The study measures TV-related conversations on the social network. Nielsen found that in the second quarter of this year, 19 million people wrote 263 million tweets about live TV events, up 38 percent from a year earlier.
About 19 million people tweet about TV shows, a 24 percent increase from last year. The audience measurement firm found that many people read tweets about TV shows while they watch them — even if they don't post anything themselves. As a result, Nielsen says the Twitter TV audience for an average episode is 50 times larger than the number of people who are tweeting about a show.
Separately, Nielsen found that the “Breaking Bad” finale was by far the most tweeted-about program last week.
On Sunday, the NFL showed just how Twitter-enabled promotions work. Minutes after Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones intercepted New England's Tom Brady, ending the quarterback's streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass, the NFL posted a video clip on Twitter. The clip shows Jones bobbling and then snagging the ball before it hits the ground.
The 32-second clip was prefaced by an eight-second video ad for a Verizon Droid mobile phone. “Adam Jones ends the Pats undefeated season, Brady's TD streak AND a rainstorm. With 1 INT,” the league tweeted.
By inserting itself into the online buzz, the NFL was able to remind people the game was going on live at its NFL Network channel. Meanwhile, it earned revenue from Verizon, a longtime sponsor that wanted to showcase its NFL Mobile app.
The NFL has more than 5.1 million followers on Twitter. Its partnership with Twitter means the tweet went out to millions of other users who might be interested.
Twitter's projected 2013 revenue is about $582 million, according to research firm eMarketer. At the moment, the company generates tens of millions of dollars of revenue from all of its TV deals, including those with ESPN, Turner networks, CBS and others, said Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group.
Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimated that Twitter gets just a small fraction of its revenue from the TV deals — about 1 percent. But by next year, the deals could amount to 5 percent and 15 percent the year after, he said.