October 10, 2013
Comcast Corp. will make programming from its NBCUniversal TV networks available to Twitter Inc.'s users in a variety of ways under a wide-ranging partnership announced Wednesday. The agreement covers popular shows that air on channels owned by Comcast's NBCUniversal. These include NBC's "The Voice" and "Sunday Night Football," as well as shows on cable networks USA and Bravo.
Twitter users will be able to tap a "See It" button at the bottom of tweets to stream shows on their smartphones and tablets. The function will be available to people who subscribe to Comcast or other pay-TV operators that have digital licensing deals with NBCUniversal. Comcast's cable-TV subscribers in particular also will have the option to tune in to live TV, set a digital video recorder, or start a show through Comcast's on-demand service. Comcast, which developed "See It," says it expects to launch the feature in November. Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts called it a "simple yet powerful feature that creates an instant online remote control."
The deal is the most ambitious move by a major media company to link up with Twitter in an effort to extend the reach of its programming to the social media service's 49.2 million U.S. users. Comcast hopes the "See It" feature will encourage users to tune into live TV at a time when time-shifted viewing on digital video recorders-which allow fast-forwarding through ads-is widespread.
NBCUniversal also will become the latest media partner to sign up for Twitter's Amplify advertising product, through which TV networks and Twitter share advertising revenue from short video clips that appear in the Twitter stream. Twitter has similar deals with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, CBS Corp. and the National Football League. For Twitter, which filed last week for an initial public offering of stock, the deal underscores how the company is trying to cozy up to TV networks as it looks to grab more advertising dollars. The company's revenue doubled to $254 million in the first six months of this year but it isn't profitable.
Comcast said it is talking with other pay-TV providers and programmers to make the "See It" feature more widely available. A Time Warner Cable Inc. spokeswoman said, "We have had discussions, and we're looking into it. We continue to explore different ways to integrate our customers' interests with their viewing experience."
Comcast's chief business officer, Sam Schwartz , says the company's goal is for the "See It" button to mimic the Facebook "Like" button and proliferate not only across social media sites but also other websites that mention TV shows. Mr. Schwartz said Comcast has "begun to talk to other sites" but "for launch we're focused on Twitter." One hurdle is that Twitter users will have to enter login credentials associated with their pay-TV provider to stream shows.
Entering such login information has proved a barrier for consumers as TV networks have made programming accessible on the Web in recent years. Comcast is working on simplifying the process. Comcast, which has been losing video customers for years and faces new threats from online video sites, has taken big steps to soup up its TV experience in recent years. Mr. Schwartz says the Twitter partnership will "solve a problem we've been working on": making consumers aware of all the online and on-demand content that comes with a cable subscription. "Our challenge as a company is to get our subscribers to continue to understand the volume of content already available to them" through Comcast, he said.
For now, the "See It" button will appear only when Twitter accounts affiliated with NBCUniversal's channels send out a link. Mr. Schwartz says Comcast hopes to make the feature more sophisticated, so it is available, for example, when hashtags in a tweet mention TV programs. Mr. Schwartz says the data collected from the feature will give the operator insight into the correlation between conversations on Twitter and TV viewing. The company will know how many people, upon seeing the tweet, choose to tune into the live show, record it or stream it. It'll also be helpful for Twitter as it tries to "build a business that convinces programmers to continue to use Twitter to promote their shows," he said. Wall Street Journal; more in Philadelphia Inquirer
Vonage Holdings Corp. has agreed to acquire voice-over-Internet-protocol company Vocalocity for $130 million, in a deal aimed at strengthening Vonage's position in the small- and medium-size business sector. Vonage will pay $105 million in cash and $25 million in stock for a purchase that it sees as "transformative," said Chief Executive Marc Lefar in an interview. Holmdel, N.J.-based Vonage provides voice over Internet protocol and other communications services to more than 2.3 million subscribers. Many of Vonage's customers are households, but the company has been making a push to cater to businesses. It has a market capitalization of $641 million.
Based in Atlanta, Vocalocity provides hosted voice communication for small- and medium-size business customers. The company has approximately 21,000 customers, said Mr. Lefar, with the average customer paying $230 per month. Vocalocity employs more than 250 people. Last month, Vocalocity competitor RingCentral Inc. sold shares in an initial public offering at $13 per share. The stock closed Wednesday at $16.51, giving the company a market capitalization of $1 billion. Mr. Lefar said that being part of Vonage will help Vocalocity achieve scale, and the company could benefit from Vonage's branding. Wall Street Journal
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