Twitter logoTwitter lights up during big TV events such as the Super Bowl, Olympics and the Oscars, but can the social-media platform deliver users directly to the tube? Comcast and Twitter are betting it can with SEEiT, a button embedded in tweets that actually can change the channel from a user’s smartphone or tablet or set a DVR to record a show. The platform works with shows from ABC, A&E, AMC, Fox, NBC and others as well as set-top boxes from Comcast, Cablevision, Charter and Time Warner Cable.  “If you’re between 13 and 24, (social media) is probably the primary way you’re discovering things,” says Erik Flannigan, executive VP of multiplatform strategy and development for the Viacom Entertainment Group. That’s why Flannigan considers initiatives such as SEEiT to be “the tip of an iceberg.”

Image (2) Awardsline-logo_use-this-one__140529211810-275x38.jpg for post 738599Programmers are intrigued: Nearly half of viewers under 30 use computers, smartphones or tablets to visit social networks during their TV time, research from Deloitte recently reported. A separate study from the Council for Research Excellence found that viewers of specials, sci-fi shows, sports and movies are especially eager to simultaneously chat online with others. “TV networks fully understand, top to bottom, that their mission is to deliver that (social media experience) to you in a relationship that’s 24/7/365, and it never used to be that way,” Flannigan says. For now, SEEiT’s value lies in the insight it offers about consumer behavior—including which tweets inspired people to watch a show. Comcast and Twitter “will have all that data and interactions that will enable them to understand a particular consumer’s engagement with both social media and whether they click through to watch the program,” says Mark Lieberman, CEO of Viamedia, the cable industry’s largest independent ad sales company. “That becomes a powerful data insight.”

SEEiT button with arrowSome potential problems still need to be addressed. For example, will viewers resent all the data collection? Also, SEEiT clearly owns that first piece of the connection between viewers and their smartphones. “Does this run the risk that Comcast can disintermediate other cable companies, programmers and platforms?” Lieberman asks. “Sure.” Flannigan has a similar concern as Viacom and other companies try to get on “a level playing field in the consumer-relationship business with the folks who own the billing relationship on the cable side,” he says, adding that this should be easy to resolve. “We all want more people to use our systems and watch cable television and, really, all of these things are aligned in trying to get people to do that.”