As an increasing number of viewers are reaching for their laptops, tablets and smartphones while they watch TV, Shaw Media is teaming up with Twitter to make sure advertising messages get through anyway.
The broadcaster, which owns the Global television network as well as a host of specialty channels, announced Wednesday that it has struck a deal with the social media giant to co-sell advertising, offering clients a unified process for advertising on television and across so-called "second screens." Shaw is the first Canadian media company to sign on to Twitter's Amplify program.
In the United States, this type of campaign was used by ESPN during college football games, offering instant replay clips embedded right into tweets. The extra social media content was sponsored by Ford Motor Co. and included a very short intro ad for the Ford Fusion.
Earlier this month, Fox Broadcasting Co. announced its partnership with Twitter to promote its programs and give advertisers extra reach to its audiences. The announcement was made at the time of Fox's "upfront" presentation, the annual event where broadcasters present the next season's TV offerings to media buyers and vie for their attentions and ad budgets.
"We're tapping into a revenue stream that we currently don't offer," said Paul Burns, vice president of digital media at Shaw Communications Inc. "... We're going to create this kind of social TV love child." The way the revenue is distributed between Shaw and Twitter will depend on the campaign, Mr. Burns said.
At first, the TV-Twitter campaigns will likely be done alongside Shaw's Canadian-made shows, such as Big Brother Canada. That's because, unlike popular American shows such as Glee, Shaw has easier access to extra content, such as behind-the-scenes footage. Those extras could be targeted in promoted tweets to fans of the show, and sponsored by an advertiser.
The company eventually envisages doing the same with its U.S.-made hits as well, Mr. Burns said.
According to a report by Nielsen, 85 per cent of mobile owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once a month, and 40 per cent do so daily.
Shopping for products they had seen in ads was the third most popular activity on those second screens, according to research released last month from NPD Group. That came after learning about actors and learning about the show or movie, with 19.4 per cent of respondents reporting that they had responded to ads that way. Roughly 15 per cent of those surveyed reported using those devices to discuss a show on social networks.
According to Twitter-owned analytics firm Bluefin Labs, 95 per cent of the conversations about television happening on social media happen on Twitter.
Clients in Canada have been looking for this type of advertising solution, Christopher Walton, supervisor of advanced TV solutions at Media Experts in Toronto, said, but second screen experiences have so far been mostly in mobile and Web applications built by the broadcaster for the show. "You can have this amazing app, but if only 2,000 or 3,000 people are using it at once, it's tough to get actionable insights from that," he said.
Shaw's Mr. Burns also acknowledged that those broadcaster-built experiments have mostly fallen flat.
"The way social and traditional TV media is bought and sold is fragmented," he said. "The advertisers are looking for the connective tissue that makes delivering a brand message more connected."