Twitter Inc. has teamed with the National Basketball Association to stream video clips of game highlights as the blogging service expands beyond 140-character status updates ahead of a possible initial public offering.
NBA Digital, a joint venture between the sports league and Turner Broadcasting System Inc., will post game snippets on Twitter during the playoffs with the hashtag #NBARapidReplay, said Adam Bain, president of global revenue at Twitter. Short advertisements will appear alongside the clips, he said.
Twitter is adding video content to bolster ad revenue in a bid to reach $1 billion in sales by 2014. While Chief Executive Officer Dick Costolo has downplayed the potential for an IPO, the company is widely expected to make a public market debut in the near future. The NBA partnership builds on a deal Twitter struck earlier this week with ESPN, a unit of Walt Disney Co. (DIS), to show highlights from soccer matches, college football and other sports.
“People on Twitter are talking about what they’re watching on TV,” Bain said in an interview. “This is a great way to bring great content onto the platform and have marketers support it.”
Basketball replays will appear with marketing messages for Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Yum! Brands Inc. (YUM)’s Taco Bell and Sprint Nextel Corp. (S), Bain said. He declined to comment on financial terms of the arrangements.
The NBA has more than 7 million followers of its official Twitter account, and estimates there are about 120 million fans of players and teams on the website, according to Christina Miller, senior vice president and general manager of NBA Digital. The partnership with Twitter is an attempt to spur more conversations between these users, she said.
“First and foremost it’s about our fans,” Miller said. Twitter is “a very big, active, engaged universe,” she said.
The partners are relying on technology created by SnappyTV, a San Francisco-based maker of tools to create online clips from video broadcasts, Miller said.
Twitter also has video deals with Viacom Inc. (VIAB) to host stand-up comedy clips from Comedy Central; weather forecasts from Weather Channel LLC; and college basketball clips provided by Turner Broadcasting.
In addition, Twitter has pursued a partnership with Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBCUniversal, two people familiar with the matter said last month.
Last June, a third of active Twitter users posted on the site about something they watched on TV, up from 26 percent at the beginning of the year, according to a report from Nielsen Holdings NV. (NLSN) Twitter and Nielsen have agreed to form a partnership to measure the amount of online discussion being generated by TV programs.
For advertisers, Twitter may help reach consumers who divide their time between television and social networks, said Dwight Caines, president of worldwide digital marketing at Sony Pictures.
“We know that consumers often react to live sports on Twitter,” Caines wrote in an e-mailed statement. “This was a perfect way to be a part of their second-screen experience.”
In February, Twitter bought Bluefin Labs, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based startup which makes software that lets advertisers, agencies and networks monitor and analyze social-media comments about TV shows and commercials.
Bain was an executive at News Corp.’s Fox unit before joining Twitter in 2010. Peter Chernin, a former News Corp. president, last November joined Twitter’s board to help the company navigate the media industry, Costolo said at the time.
TV networks and content providers such as the NBA are attracted to Twitter because they see an opportunity to get viewers tuning in to live broadcasts, Bain said.
“This will increase the chance someone will see a great moment from the game and turn on the TV,” he said.
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