Will Twitter Eliminate Social TV Apps?

Watching-Tablet-TV-A4Twitter has become synonymous with social TV. In addition to the record 24 million tweets generated during the Super Bowl, the social messaging service served as the platform for the game’s most talked-about advertising, thanks in part to a timely blackout.

The success of the Oreo tweet and others revved up real-time marketing for the Oscars via Twitter, and another 8.9 million tweets. Now another annual TV ritual -- “American Idol” -- is using Twitter this week to take instant audience polls with the results displayed on screen.

“Brands have been jumping on this bandwagon with hashtag strategies. The Super Bowl is a classic example where half of the ads mentioned Twitter,” said Anna Banks, vice president, strategy and planning at Organic. Twitter’s recent acquisition of social TV analytics startup Bluefin Labs and partnership with Nielsen to create a social TV rating only underscores its ambitions in the space.

What will this mean for dedicated second-screen apps like GetGlue, Viggle, IntoNow, Zeebox and Miso? Are they at risk of becoming irrelevant? These services offer a range of content and features that Twitter doesn’t, from TV schedules to special show-related material to personalized recommendations.

Many also include gamification elements, like check-ins, rewards and trivia contests, to boost engagement and open up advertising and marketing opportunities. Integration of social-sharing tools, including Facebook and Twitter, is also common. So are slick user interfaces.

But the audience for each of these second-screen apps is tiny compared to Twitter. Viggle, for instance, reports 1.9 million registered users and about 550,000 monthly active users. According to comScore data, Viggle had 3.1 million visitors in January; GetGlue, 3.8 million; and Zeebox, 147,000. Shazam had about 10 million, but social TV use is only a subset of its function as a music recognition tool.

Twitter in December passed 200 million monthly users, up from 140 million in March. One in three people using Twitter tweeted about TV-related content in June, according to Nielsen data. As of January, Twitter had 39.6 U.S. monthly visitors, per comScore.

Marketers don’t have to determine the various social TV apps when they can use familiar digital platforms with far wider reach and plenty of TV fans. Agency executives view the choice as something of a tradeoff.

“As of now, Twitter doesn’t offer a campaign-specific experience that engages users for more than a few seconds,” said Vik Kathuria, managing partner at GroupM’s Mediacom. “On the other hand, Twitter has 1,000 times the engagement.”

Jeremy Lockhorn, vice president, emerging media, Razorfish, sees a similar dichotomy, noting that while Twitter offers scale, the emerging crop of social TV apps provide a more immersive experience that in turn can help lift specific campaign goals.

He points to one unnamed client that saw a 67% lift in brand favorability, 32% and 38% rise in two key brand health statements, and a 61% increase in brand consideration through advertising in a social TV app in connection with a major TV event last year.

That said, he believes there’s still an opportunity for a company to create a more compelling second-screen offering. 

TV networks like USA Today and Bravo have created their own social marketing initiatives that tap into Twitter but don’t necessarily rely on third-party apps. USA’s Twitter-fueled Character Chatter site fostering real-time conversation is among the better-known examples.

Bravo last month launched @Bravoholic, a rewards program that recognizes fans who have tweeted about the network most actively with weekly prizes including control over the @Bravoholic handle and the chance to have a question answered by Andy Cohen on “Watch What Happens Live.”

Given Twitter’s growing presence and the number of social TV apps vying for users and advertising dollars, consolidation seems a likely course as the category evolves. Viggle and GetGlue ended up terminating a planned merger last month after Viggle said in November it would acquire its rival for $25 million.

But it won’t be surprising to see similar such deals closing in the months ahead. After all, no one needs half a dozen social TV apps on their phone. “We'll continue to see a shifting tide of companies that rise and fall as they either hit scale and adoption by the masses -- or they don't,” said Jason Hoch, senior vice president, customer strategy and product marketing, at social TV platform provider Echo. 

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3 comments about "Will Twitter Eliminate Social TV Apps? ".
  1. Chris Saad from Echo , March 1, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.
    I've shared some thoughts on this on our own blog: http://blog.aboutecho.com/2013/03/01/twitter-vs-your-brand-false-choice/
  2. Elizabeth Fairchild from OneScreen, Inc. , March 4, 2013 at 1:37 p.m.
    I'd have to say that Jeremy Lockhorn is spot on. Social TV apps will continue to be relevant with the more immersive experiences that they offer audiences, specifically the more content they can offer.
  3. cory huff from janrain , March 4, 2013 at 4:55 p.m.
    Will Twitter "eliminate" social TV apps? They certainly could if they wanted to. Twitter has shown a willingness to build features into its core platform that were previously the domain of third party applications. This happened with search, image sharing, analytics, and other tools. Twitter uses the developer ecosystem to sift feature demand. It might be too early to worry, but Twitter's strategic partnership with Nielsen would make me nervous if I were a social TV company executive. To stay future-proof, I would focus on building experiences that are outside of Twitter's functionality, and don't depend on access to Twitter's API.