Twitter's TV boss boasts about tweets and the tube

Twitter's Danny Keens in Hong Kong.
Twitter's Danny Keens in Hong Kong.

Danny Keens tells Campaign that viewers who tweet are more likely to keep watching -- and recall the ads they saw

HONG KONG – For all the doom and gloom you hear about the TV industry in the Internet era, it’s still "the biggest game in town," says Twitter’s global director of television, Danny Keens, in an interview with Campaign.

Keens was in town last week to speak at the annual convention of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasters Association of Asia.

"When we launch a country office, our first hire is a TV lead," Keens said, because Twitter is counting heavily on monetizing TV content via three revenue generation avenues.The first is via Twitter TV Ratings, which was launched recently in partnership with Nielsen in the U.S., with Kantar in the U.K. and with Video Research in Japan.

"Broadcasters can take the numbers of the buzz and volume happening on Twitter to a client or an agency and prove that viewers are highly socially engaged with the program and they should pay a premium to advertise during the show," Keens said. "Brand recall, purchase intent and favorability are also higher when (audiences) are engaged with TV."

Twitter says that viewers who tweet about a show while that show is on TV are much less likely to change the channel, and to have better ad recollection afterwards. A study by Twitter and Nielsen found that users who are only watching TV have a 17 percent chance of changing the channel. That drops to a 13 percent chance if they’re using a mobile phone, and only 8 percent chance if they’re engaged online.

When it comes to ad recall, viewers have a 53 percent chance of remembering an ad screened during a program if they were posting on Twitter, versus 40 percent of those who were just watching TV. "We figure it's because people tend to stay in front of the box, so they’re still hearing the ads and ‘meercatting’ every now and then," Keens said.

These engagement metrics matter greatly to Twitter because it will hopefully lead to broadcasters and advertisers using Twitter Amplify, which helps distribute video content from boadcasters paired with a pre-roll ad.


"What we say is, Twitter is a business that doesn’t own or buy content," Keens said. "We function by encouraging broadcast partners to bring their digital content to Twitter. Your content, our eyeballs," he said. "We have 281 million monthly active users (worldwide) to amplify that content to. When a sponsor pays to promote that Tweet, we do a 50-50 revenue split with the networks."

This model contrasts with YouTube’s pre-roll ads, he says, because the brand pays to distribute the broadcasters’ content.

Lastly, Twitter makes content from "TV conversation targeting."

"It’s very much about a brand saying ‘We want to target people talking about The Voice,’ " Keens said. "We (Twitter) can establish whose talking about the voice on our platform, and we can serve them ads."

Currently, Twitter is working even harder at deepening its relationship with TV content, seeking to work directly with producers to ‘bake Twitter’ into the program itself. "If we can’t get on-air integrations, we have on-Twitter integrations with the cast of the show live-tweeting when it goes on air," he said. "This works great because people engage far more with the actors of the show than the show’s official account."

The social platform has also worked out a way for viewers to change the channel using Twitter. Currently only available in the U.S. and in partnership with ComCast and NBCUniversal, the special tweets give users the option of instructing their set-top box (which has presumably been synced with the user’s Twitter account) to change the channel to the show in the promoted Tweet or even record the program.

So far, though, Twitter TV ratings' penetration in Asia has been low and slow. It has launched only in Australia and Japan, although it announced plans with Kantar earlier this year to bring the ratings to Southeast Asia.

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