Netflix Begins Talks with Cable Providers

Netflix has begun talks with American cable providers in an effort to integrate with their set top boxes.  If they manage to ink a deal with major American television providers, it would mark a major change in thinking about mainstream media dominance, showing Netflix to be such a major player that it can no longer be ignored.  U.K. provider Virgin Media recently announced a partnership with Netflix that will allow its customers to search for Netflix shows seamlessly within the standard cable channel browser.  Netflix’s positioning as a lower-cost alternative to cable television has made it a clear and present danger to cable providers all over the world, and teaming up could allow traditional providers to maintain some relevance as television viewing shifts more and more online and on-demand.

Canadian Government Pushes To Unbundle TV Channels

According to a report from Reuters, the Canadian government will soon require that customers be allowed to buy their cable and satellite channels on an a la carte basis, unbundling them from traditional packages. Canada’s Industry Minister said, “We want to unbundle television channels and allow Canadians to pick and pay the specific television channels that they want.” Indeed, some Canadian cable and satellite stations have already begun this process. The odds of this policy making it to the United States seem slim for the moment, but Canada is hoping to put competitive pressure on the U.S., which seems like the only way that the government will buckle to pressure. For the time being, though, Netflix, Amazon, and Aereo (who have been quite successful defending themselves in court recently) offer compelling alternatives to traditional TV. 

Does Twitter Drive Tune-In?

Twitter has bet big on TV, establishing a new department, a standardized rating system and advertiser products like Amplify which re-purpose video content within tweets . Yet, for many the focus seems to be on compelling content from the actors. It has to respond to the programming in real-time, be human and offer exclusive viewing like behind-the-scenes footage. Yet, the argument can be made that all of these interactions are supplementary to the show, attracting all the hardcore viewers but likely not additional tune-in.  While some shows can generate thousands of tweets per minute, did that really affect the ratings? That’s the argument Twitter needs to make with the networks to be successful at the moment.

Fortunately, we’ll soon be able to judge whether Twitter actually drives ratings, thanks to a new metric called the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating. The statistic will be able to judge the social media impact of a program, looking at the total audience for social TV activity, both in terms of the size of the populace participating on social activity about shows, as well as those who were exposed to the activity but didn’t take part. In so doing, Twitter and Nielsen are looking specifically at the size of the effect of social TV on TV programming.

So although there’s not an immediate metric to say that, yes, twitter did affect ratings, it’s now possible to look at the social TV metrics, in conjunction with Nielsen ratings spikes, and effectively reverse engineer the correlated results. Certainly, correlation doesn’t equal causation, but by taking stock of the Social TV rating, the regular Nielsen ratings, their conjoined movements, and other external factors (for instance, the social media buzz around Breaking Bad that undoubtedly drove ratings up), we will have a much clearer picture of social’s effects in the TV ratings sphere.

Twitter Tests Trending TV

A few Twitter users awoke this morning to find their activity streams filled with a new ‘Trending’ TV box. The social network is testing out new ways of monetizing its service, and to drive higher usage. The trending box displays current popular TV shows as cards in a user’s Twitter timeline, and links to more information about the show, people in it, as well as promotions and other offers. So far, the elusive feature seems to only appear through the iOS app, rather than through the desktop, implying that Twitter is testing it as an augmented second screen activity. Expect to see more on this soon as it’s a developing story.  

Higher Tweet Volume Drives TV Tune-In 29% of the Time

According to a new Nielsen study, an increase in tweets directly causes more tune-ins for TV shows. Relying in live TV ratings and tweets for 221 primetime broadcast episodes, the study found a correlation between tweet and tune-in surges. At the same time, a ratings boost also means more tweets almost half the time, while an increase in tweets boosts ratings 29% of the time. Nielsen saw a statistically significant casual influence, which means that TV ratings can increase the volume of tweets, and an increase in tweets can cause a spike in tune-ins. It remains unclear whether this is a universal standard, or just across programs with already elevated social engagement, but proof of two-way causation between tweeting and tuning in could be extremely helpful for pitching Twitter’s new TV ad targeting product, among other campaigns. 

Twitter and TV: An Advertiser’s Targeting Paradise

Numerous studies have shown that people tend to multitask with their technology.  Twitter’s jump into the advertising pool has certainly been informed by this behavior, and their seeming omnipresence gives them a unique perspective on how brands can effectively target their audiences.  Twitter is now rolling out TV Ad Targeting to all US advertisers following a beta launch in May.  The service is based on technology acquired with BlueFin Labs, a TV analytics service Twitter bought in February, that uses video fingerprinting technology to determine which ads played in which markets during which shows.  By feeding Twitter users ads related to the TV they are watching, Neilsen studies state, message association rises by 95% and purchase intent jumps up almost 60%.  This capability, combined with improved analytics for advertisers could make Twitter an even more valuable and easy to use second screen tool for marketers looking to push their campaigns to the next level.

Apple Might Be Ready To Skip Commercials

When Apple takes on existing technologies and puts their product design expertise to work, they have the power to move technologies formerly only accessible to the more technically-minded among us into the mainstream.  DVR technology is hardly exclusive to mega-geeks, but if Apple moved into the sphere, it is likely the popularity of the technology could explode.  Sources indicate that the technology giant has begun meeting with cable networks to pitch an ad-skipping service much like TiVo or Hopper.  This could only be a small part of a larger set-top-box project, but it could still spell a big problem for TV advertisers. The report indicates that Apple would pay networks every time a user skips ads, so it’s possible there would be a subscription fee involved as well.  In any case, if the rates are not set carefully, Apple could seriously disrupt the effectiveness and cost of TV advertising.

Second Screen TV Competition Expands At Cannes

At the Cannes Lions conference, Twitter made the case for its Amplify program, that generates buzz around big TV shows by introducing its latest recruit: Viacom. The pilot program for the partnership will be the MTV Video Music Awards on August 25th, which was one of the first events to generate an authentically trending social media presence. Brands working with Twitter Amplify now include ESPN, Turner Sports, and the NBA, as well as specific campaigns by Ford, AT&T and Coca-Cola. Also pitching at Cannes was Shazam, who announced the “Shazam Engagement Rate,” which is a proprietary metric to judge the effectiveness of TV ads driving people to tag using the app. It will combine data from Nielsen with its own stats, with the goal of showing which ads are most effective at persuading viewers to interact. 

Pandora Releases Web App For TV

Pandora announced today that it is releasing an HTML 5 app for connected TV’s. This follows the push by Pandora to bring its service to Internet-connected automobiles and mobile devices. While it’s available as a native app on Smart TVs, Blu-Ray players, and some set-top boxes, Pandora has been notoriously absent from game consoles; the new app remedies this in its HTML 5 design, which means its available to any TV streaming device – like many game consoles. The goal for Pandora is, ultimately, consistency and quality. The company knows that the best speakers in the house are in the living room, and that the best guaranteed access point in the home is through the TV. Simultaneously, the TV app primes the company to generate significantly more ad revenue, and to combine with commercials and on-screen experiences to create a seamless flow between listening service and discovery engine. 

Big Media Deals With YouTube Talent

Getting genuine traction in the YouTube world has proven a fickle task for even the biggest advertising groups, and as a result many have focused on attracting homegrown talent in the YouTube world. Instead of invading YouTube, they’re hiring the people who understand the medium from the ground up; indeed, last week Phil DeFranco was acquired by Revision3, and DreamWorks Animation picked up AwesomenessTV for a reported $33 million. So although things like AdSense are great, personalities like DeFranco can offer a much more advanced approach to putting advertising on their content.