Fox has encouraged viewers of "American Idol" to weigh in on… (Todd Williamson / Invision/AP )
Fox and Twitter have entered into a partnership to promote the broadcaster's programs and help advertisers reach TV audiences as they discuss shows on the social network.
Twitter Inc., which has established itself as the water cooler where America dissects the latest developments on NBC's "The Voice" or AMC's "Mad Men," is expected to strike more deals with broadcasters.
On Tuesday, ESPN and Twitter plan to announce they are expanding their partnership. Last year the sports network, majority owned by Walt Disney Co., incorporated video highlights directly into Twitter feeds related to its coverage of the BCS championship game. This year it plans to expand those offerings to include such events as the Summer X Games and regular-season college football games.
Twitter has been in conversations with Comcast Corp.'s NBCUniversal and CBS Corp. on ways to show more videos on Twitter — and sell ads to go with them.
"We are having lots of conversations with different networks," said Chloe Sladden, Twitter's head of media. "Twitter and TV are such a well-made match, it is becoming more and more essential to the experience of watching TV for fans."
In an announcement Monday, timed to coincide with its upfront presentation to advertisers and media buyers in New York, Fox said it would use Twitter to distribute clips of upcoming TV shows, tout highlights of live events and share video after episodes of various shows have aired.
Brand marketers would use Twitter's advertising platform to promote this network content.
"Social media is a fantastic complement to compelling, live television content," said Toby Byrne, president of advertising for Fox Broadcasting Co. "Not only is it a great marketing tool for us ... [it also] opens up additional ways for us to connect brands with our audience."
Television network executives recognize that social media have become the place where a show's most devoted viewers gather to share their views, glean insights from its creators and get behind-the-scenes glimpses from its stars.
Fox, for example, used Twitter voting in the first season of "The X Factor" music competition. This year, it encouraged viewers of "American Idol" to weigh in on certain elements of the show using Twitter hashtags. The results were displayed in real time on the television screen.
"It's a way to seize whatever conversation is already happening on Twitter about a TV show and turn that conversation into money," Forrester Research media analyst James McQuivey said. "Right now that conversation is already happening on Twitter. Fox would love that conversation to happen on its website or on its app. But it's not going to. Fox is recognizing that it might as well go where people are."
Fox said it plans to start using the Twitter promotions this summer and hopes to extend them to its full broadcasting lineup this fall.
"I can't imagine it's a hard deal to justify," McQuivey said. "You expand your opportunity to reach the viewer. You can measure the interaction with the viewer, and then if advertisers are willing to pay for it, well, it's hard to say no to an opportunity like that."
The deal may be more beneficial for broadcasters than it is for Twitter — at least in the short run.
The popular social media site, founded in 2006, has taken a slow path to building its advertising business. It has grown more valuable in recent months as it moves closer to an expected 2014 initial public offering by offering new forms of advertisement and expanding further into international markets.
Research firm EMarketer Inc. recently raised its forecast for advertising spending on Twitter, estimating it will collect about $583 million in global ad revenue in 2013 and nearly $1 billion in 2014.
"This alone won't take care of Twitter's revenue questions," McQuivey said. "It does show a kind of creativity to take traffic that is already happening on Twitter and finding ways to monetize it. If Twitter can do that 10 to 12 times across a variety of industries, then that would give Twitter some hope."