Twitter TV – coming to a screen near you soon

Twitter looks to be making a fascinating move into become a fully fledged media player, producing original content, according to an Ad Week article.

It says that the San Francisco-based company, along with multiple Hollywood producers and network executives are in serious talks about the possibility of launching several original video series via Twitter.

More than just a random rumor, the Ad Week article alleges “one project in particular could debut this year, potentially as early as the fall.” It looks as if the company will produce content on a standalone site, with promoted tweets that expand into a video player. The deal is said to be in the range of $4m.

That’s all far too specific to be pie-in-the sky conjecture heard around San Francisco coffee shops.

The real question is, is anybody surprised? As we’ve pointed out here Twitter already has had a content partnership in the US with Nascar, and will team up with NBC for the Olympics.

Back in February, YouTube spent $100m  on original content, and it was always likely that other social networks would try and follow.

Facebook, Twitter, and GoogleTube are all companies determined to leverage their huge and dedicated user base wherever they go, and monetize as much as possible.

Is this though the right move for Twitter? The Wall’s editor, Gordon MacMillan seems to think it does:

It certainly makes a degree of sense. Twitter’s efforts around curating content around  sporting events where it is creating pages provides a platform to create one off pieces of content.

If it is increasingly going to build these pages why not use them to showcase great content that has had a hand in creating with TV networks and studios. 

To my mind that is a natural evolution from what it is doing with its expanded tweets, which it announced a few weeks ago.

I’m not so sure. Part of its huge growth can be attributed to its role as the pre-eminent second screen during a variety of media events.

Look at the Leveson inquiry, Euro 2012, Question Time, or the final day of the Premier League season. Across these events and more Twitter was the source from which many people got their news and shared their opinions. Even if the company were trying, it couldn’t produce content that gripping, or generating that much spontaneous social buzz.

By trying to be a player in the highly competitive original content market, Twitter could well lose one of its most engaging, and unique, selling points – the ability to discuss organic, live events, in real-time, and end up being just another contrived online content producer. Or worse, Yahoo – although that’s pushing it.

There is one additional, interesting aspect to this story. Twitter is much more able to fail at a project than many of its rivals. Unlike Facebook, Google, Zynga, and LinkedIn, Twitter is not a public company.

Consequently, “it doesn’t have shareholders breathing down its neck and scrutinizing its every move and can still freely experiment without being held to account by Wall Street” as the Telegraph points out.

A dalliance in digital content is unlikely to bring the company down as long as it doesn’t overrun peoples feeds.

However, it does have to be careful. As Matthew Ingram succinctly puts it on GigaOm:

If you use Twitter as a short and fast news-consumption or information-delivery system about topics you care about, are you really interested in seeing promotional tweets for a Twitter-produced television-style reality show in your stream?”

Sometimes being the second screen is enough, and trying to be the primary screen could rip out the very foundations on which much of Twitter’s success is based.