The past few years have been a rollercoaster ride for the social TV market. Driven by the growth of smartphone and tablet usage while viewers watch television, dozens of companies have emerged in that time to aggregate audiences who wish to share what they’re watching on TV with other, like-minded viewers. But for all the startups that have emerged to tackle the issue of social TV, only one seems to be thriving — and that’s Twitter, a social network that (paradoxically) hasn’t been focused uniquely on the social TV problem.
We’re already seeing the early signs of a shakeout in the social TV marketplace, as startups are being acquired or silently disappearing from the scene. Not too long ago, Socialguide was acquired by Nielsen. And last month, Viggle and GetGlue announced plans to merge (although those plans are contingent on Viggle securing more financing). At the same time, other competitors — like, for instance, Miso — are pivoting to try new things or moving into adjacent markets.
Much of the reason these new, TV-centric social networks are failing to catch on is that there’s already a place where people share their feelings about what’s on TV: Twitter. And while Twitter hasn’t been terribly aggressive thus far in taking advantage of that, you can expect to see it do more over the coming year.
Here at TechCrunch, we’ve heard Twitter is reaching out to TV producers and showrunners to find out ways that it can further integrate with the TV experience. That could mean Twitter-based voting, in the case of some competitive reality shows. It could also mean introducing interactive elements in scripted shows that viewers could use to unlock new content or web experiences.
For what it’s worth, Twitter is hiring for a role just like this: One of the positions listed on its jobs site is a “Manager of TV Relationships” position based in Los Angeles. The purpose of the job is to act as a “Twitter ambassador/evangelist to TV celebrities,” getting them to tweet more during their own shows and just in general. But the goal also to work with high-profile showrunners and producers to find ways to integrate Twitter into their programming. One listed responsibility is to “manage and execute a volume of creative content plays with TV talent, such as live tweeting of shows, talent Q&As, and other creative uses of Twitter.”
For those keeping track, that seems like an obvious move for the company, as it tries to take advantage of user activity that has already emerged without too much prompting. While some networks and shows have experimented with Twitter hashtags, using the platform for voting, and soliciting feedback from viewers, there’s still a lot more that can be done.
You’ve already seen what Twitter has done with NASCAR and the launch of its event pages earlier in the summer. Now imagine Twitter.com/#AmericanIdol or Twitter.com/#SuperBowl or Twitter.com/#GameOfThrones. As I’ve written before, the beauty in all these opportunities is that much of the content for these destinations is created by viewers themselves, without much need for Twitter or the networks to produce anything original. And, of course, they provide a better experience for users.
At the same time, it’s finding ways to prove its worth to advertisers, making these combined experiences more attractive to brands and agencies. Take its recent partnership with Nielsen, for instance. By creating a metric to judge how social TV shows are, ad buyers can justify purchases made both on network TV, as well as those made on Twitter. And if there were any doubt that Twitter is the social channel of choice for viewers who want to talk about a show, the Nielsen deal ended it.
Given the tens of billions of dollars spent on TV advertising every year, finding a way to entice advertisers to create integrated or even complementary ad buys around its social network is a huge win for Twitter. And it will become even more obvious as time goes on just how important TV will be to Twitter’s continued growth.