Twitter, Comcast Join Forces in Social TV Push

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Comcast ( CMCSA) is joining forces with Twitter in a push to use social networking as a means to build its television, sports and cable viewership. While the partnership seeks to leverage Comcast's recently acquired NBCUniversal programming, it appears to be a pivotal deal for Twitter as the micro-blogging site moves toward a listing of its stock on public markets.

Comcast engineers have created a new "See It" feature for their Xfinity video customers, giving them the ability to instantly access TV shows, movies and sports directly from a Tweet. Customers will be able to use their Twitter feeds to locate TV shows and tune in with a simple click. The "See It" feature will give Twitter access on their mobile devices, DVR's.

The key appears to be Comcast's belief that enough buzz about NBCUniversal programming occurs on Twitter for its users to see a benefit from access to content from the social media site. "See It" will launch in November and will include programming from NBC, cable channels such as CNBC and Bravo and NBC Sports Network, which now carries Sunday Night Football, the NHL, the English Premier League and will have the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Comcast is taking a leap forward in social TV by enabling Twitter users to more easily find and view the shows they want to watch and discover new shows. Twitter complements the live viewing experience and is an ideal partner for Comcast and NBCUniversal," Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, said in a statement.

While the service targets Comcast's Xfinity users, it may be a bigger story for Twitter, which is seeking to prove that its over 200 million member platform can be attractive to advertisers and prospective shareholders.

Partnerships like the one struck with Comcast indicate that large media powerhouses do see Twitter an effective way of building their overall audience -- something that is likely to translate to ad revenue.

Comcast isn't alone.

Last year, Nielsen ( NLSN) said it it would incorporate Twitter traffic into its calculation of TV ratings. The program, called the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, launched earlier in October.

It is no surprise that Nielsen expects Twitter to reflect interest in television programming nor that Comcast sees the platform as a means to drive its audience engagement. Media companies already rely on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google's YouTube to increase exposure of their content.

As Twitter seeks partnerships, it is still unclear what user engagement will be. Twitter streams remain an unproven, but fast-growing advertising platform for corporations to consider.

"Twitter is where television viewers come to talk about what they're watching on TV when they're watching it. Millions of users are exposed to the live conversation that unfolds on Twitter while a show is on the air and now, with See It, they'll be able to tune in directly from a Tweet," Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, said in a statement.

In addition to the "See It" partnership, NBCUniversal and Twitter also will be on a new advertising partnership centered on Twitter's new Amplify promotional tweets. NBCUniversal will seek to use Amplify to highlight its content on users' Twitter streams and has committed its entire portfolio of programming brands to the partnership. The agreement also provides NBCUniversal's advertising clients access to Twitter's promoted platform.

"NBCUniversal's content is driving the most popular conversations in social media," Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, said in a statement "Now with this partnership, our advertisers will be able to reach even more of the specific audiences that they desire."

The partnership will launch with NBC Sports and short Premier League video highlights, in an effort to expand the reach of the sport in the U.S. The videos will be sponsored by General Electric.

Comcast shares were slighly lower at $44.28 in Wednesday afternoon trading.

-- Written by Antoine Gara in New York.

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