There were a number of reports last week that Twitter was looking to do TV-related content deals with broadcast networks such as Viacom and NBC so that it could add video clips to its real-time stream, and now we have seen two deals announced that show the kind of thing Twitter has in mind: one with BBC America that was revealed (naturally) via a tweet, and an interesting arrangement with Comedy Central, both of which emerged over the weekend.
These deals reinforce something I tried to make clear in an earlier post about the company’s plans: namely, if you don’t like television then you’re probably not going to be very happy with the future of Twitter. The deal with BBC America — which is owned by BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the agency, and carries such popular shows as Doctor Who and Top Gear in the U.S. — will presumably see Twitter run clips from those shows inside its users’ streams, in much the same way it did with ESPN during March Madness.
— BBC America (@BBCAMERICA) April 18, 2013
TV shows inside your Twitter stream
There have been other such one-off deals — as well as arrangements like the one with the Weather Channel, which will bring weather clips into Twitter’s expanded tweets — but the BBC America partnership seems to be the first one that involves an entire channel and potentially all of their shows, and it could easily be the prototype for further such deals. But will users react positively or negatively to all of this real-time video showing up in their Twitter streams?
Meanwhile, Twitter is also launching a somewhat different project with the Comedy Central channel that illustrates just how much the company wants to bring video as an experience inside the stream: the network is launching what it calls a five-day “comedy festival,” but all of the content will appear within Twitter, and most of it will be either created or distributed via Twitter’s recent video acquisition, Vine — which is designed for video clips of six seconds or less.
According to a report in the New York Times about the arrangement, a number of comedians — including legends like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner — will be posting video snippets of comedy routines as well as jokes using the hashtag #ComedyFest. On Tuesday, comedian Steve Agee will reportedly host a “Vine Dining” party as part of the festival, in which he and others will tell stories in six-second video clips that will be hosted and distributed by the Twitter network.
Video plus brands equals ad dollars
As my colleague Eliza Kern noted in her post last week about the rumors of deals with Viacom and NBC, these moves are just part of Twitter’s ongoing plans to not only host TV and video content on the network, but to monetize it (or help its creators monetize it) as well. In addition to Vine, one of the recent acquisitions that could help Twitter do that is Bluefin Labs, which specializes in tracking the real-time data about who is watching what show.
That kind of information — along with the data from Twitter’s partnership with Nielsen, announced last year — would in turn help Twitter appeal to advertisers who are looking for as much targeting information as they can get. And that appeal could be paying off already: according to a report from the Financial Times on Monday, Twitter has signed a major multi-year deal worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” with Starcom MediaVest Group, a large ad-buying firm that represents clients like Walmart and Coca-Cola.
Moves like these — and the launch of Twitter Music last week — reinforce just how much the company has evolved away from its original nature as a short-messaging service that gave you only 140 characters or less, and could be consumed quickly. Now, it is becoming a lot more like a broadcast network, or at least a willing handmaiden for broadcast networks, as CEO Dick Costolo predicted in a speech last year. But is that what users really want from Twitter?
This post was updated on April 24 to note that BBC America is a unit of BBC Worldwide and not a joint venture with Discovery Channel as was originally stated.