Today, Comcast announced the development of a new feature called See It that will debut on Twitter as part of a broader strategic partnership between Comcast, NBCUniversal and Twitter. We caught up with Sam Schwartz, Comcast Cable’s Chief Business Development Officer, to talk about this announcement, how the vision for See It evolved and where it is going.
JTR: What exactly is See It?
SS: It’s a simple but exciting tool that helps people more easily watch the shows they read about or discover online. See It lets people tune-in or record their favorite shows – directly from the conversations happening on Twitter. In a typical week, #thevoice generates more than 350,000,000 Twitter impressions. What’s missing is how to seamlessly move from that conversation to consumption. And that’s where See It comes in.
When See It launches in November, it will be a feature on Twitter that gives Xfinity TV customers the ability to control their TV directly from a tweet. We will launch initially with great shows from NBCUniversal like The Voice and events like Sunday Night Football, but we’ll add other networks and programming as well.
In early 2014, we’ll also add other video distributors to See It; tweets with See It buttons will be available for shows on multiple networks; and, the feature will be available on sites and apps across the web.
JTR: How do people use it?
SS: When you’re on Twitter, you’re either seeing tweets from shows like The Voice prompting tune-in or maybe a trending topic about something that happened on The Blacklist. I am a fan of both shows, but how do I act on these conversations? See It will be integrated into a show’s tweet, so that with the click of a button, I can change the channel on my TV right away, record it or even watch on my mobile device.
For example, let’s say that I’m riding home on the bus and I see tweets on my phone from friends, reporters and celebrities about something called "Sharknado." If I had only seen an ad about a sharks-meet-a-natural-disaster movie, frankly, there would be little chance that I would tune-in. However, all these tweets pique my curiosity, I click on the See It button in one of the tweets, and then use it to set a reminder to watch the movie later that night.
JTR: Can you tell us a bit more about how you came up with this idea? Where did it come from?
SS: We know that platforms like Twitter have become go-to places to discover television shows in real-time. But the question has always been … how do we better connect people with the shows they are talking about? See It accomplishes that.
Comcast has some brilliant engineers and when we tossed them this challenge, they came back with See It as a solution. We think they’ve developed an innovative, simple, yet powerful feature that provides users with a direct connection between their online conversation and their TV. Twitter’s real-time nature makes the See It feature even more powerful because it gives customers a way to instantly tune-in to a live show right from Twitter …something that’s never been done before.
And, given the fact that Twitter is live, public and conversational, Twitter recognized the power and potential of See It right away.
JTR: You mentioned that everyone would have access to See It. Why can only Xfinity subscribers use See It at first?
SS: Yes, we are using the Xfinity platform as a beta test of See It with Twitter, NBCUniversal networks and Xfinity TV customers. Other networks, video distributors, websites and apps are already interested in getting on board. Stay tuned for news on this front.
JRT: Why is See It good for networks?
SS: Everyday, millions of network viewers engage in real-time social conversations on Twitter while watching TV. See It enables networks to make those connections and help convert the millions of TV-related tweets into actual viewing to help drive ratings and engagement with viewers.
JTR: How does a programmer enable See It?
SS: From a programmer’s perspective, all they have to do is embed a small, invisible tag from the See It platform on their respective show’s website, and then Twitter and other sites in the future will automatically attach the See It functionality to any tweet that links to that website.
JTR: Are there any other aspects to the partnership with Twitter?
SS: Yes, in addition to See It, today we also announced a new advertising partnership between NBCUniversal and Twitter’s Amplify program. Amplify opens up sponsorship opportunities for near real-time video highlights of events or shows.
Comcast and Twitter have also committed to continuing to work together to explore other opportunities to better integrate social conversation with television viewing. For example, one idea we’ve had would be to incorporate Twitter trending data for top shows and movies into the X1 platform on TVs so our customers could directly tune in with their remote to the top buzzing shows on Twitter. There are a number of possibilities and we’re really excited to be working closely with Twitter to bring these features to our customers.
JTR: Sounds awesome. Anything else you want to share?
SS: With all the conversation and social engagement taking place online around TV shows, the industry has a huge opportunity to make TV watching more social, more interactive and more fun. We view See It as a great step in that direction.