Tiny Twitter gets lost in a Rube Goldberg Contraption!

Can Twitter Save TV? (And Can TV Save Twitter?), asks Jeff Bercovici in Forbes  and quotes Twitter-CEO Dick Costolo with the following gem:

As we’ve grown, it’s become more and more clear to us that the characteristics that make up Twitter – public, real-time and conversational – make it a perfect complement to television.

This is the kind of sad outcome if your company is overstuffed with VC money, without having a real business model. You have to model yourself as an appendix to the ancient media system your peers think of as dusty and doomed, but where the real ad Dollars are still landing.

The TV-Twitter-funnel looks essentially like this:

  1. TV
  2. tweet
  3. more TV viewers
  4. more tweets
  5. even more TV viewers
  6. even more tweets
  7. show’s over.
See it: with Comcast and Twitter.

Twitter’s See it: without Comcast, you don’t see it.

It’s a bit like a multilevel marketing scheme: more tweets generate more viewers, who tweet and attract even more viewers and so on. At least, sometimes it works like that. Nielsen explainsthe volume of tweets caused statistical lifts in live ratings among 29%. To understand the why and how, we will have to wait for the next wave of research.

But actually, some of the already known effects are kind of self explanatory:

Tweets had the greatest impact on competitive reality TV skeins, influencing ratings changes in 44% of episodes. Meanwhile, comedy (37%) and sports (28%) genres also saw increased tune-in from tweets, while dramas were least affected (18%) by tweets during episodes.

If something exciting is happening in Dancing with the Stars or X-Factor, a tweet might make you tune in. Comedy is made of bits and pieces, so if Jon Stewart or Jimmy Kimmel are having a run, you can jump in without having to ask what has been happening before. Sports is equally OK, after having missed the first 20 minutes. Of course the relevance of a game is mostly known before it even starts. With dramas, it starts to get complicated. Switching to a crime show after the crime can be a bit of bewildering.

This could be a simple story. If a tweet points to an already running drama, you either start watching right in the middle – or click yourself to the start of the show. Some more advanced TV providers, like Sweden’s Magine are offering that already, at least in some of the more friendlier legal environments.

Technically, it’s not rocket science. But, unfortunately, the business of television is an immensely successful epic Rube Goldberg contraption, with as many relevant stakeholders as it gets. In an Internet- perfect TV world, every TV show would have its own URI. It wouldn’t matter if it’s live or not. You click the link and watch the show, from any starting point you like. Sounds like YouTube, doesn’t it. And not like TV. At least not yet. Comedy Central’s move of breaking down the wall between linear and digital is almost seen as a revolutionary.

But if you as Twitter want to accomplish this in the TV ecosystem of now, you end up with a strange thing like See it. The brainchild of a strategic partnership between Comcast, NBCUniversal and Twitter, See it will be a feature on Twitter that gives Xfinity TV customers the ability to control their TV directly from a tweet (if they happen to watch a show by NBCUniversal in a Comcast household equipped with Xfinity devices). Very promising.
Sounds just like those interactive TV ventures from the past, which went so well, like … uhm … OK.

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