Twitter to buy social TV firm Bluefin Labs for around $70m

Twitter has the social TV x factor: The x factor judges

UPDATE: Twitter has confirmed the reports that it has made what is thought to be its biggest acquisition to date, outstripping that of TweetDeck, with the deal to buy social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs, which if anyone was in any doubt, underscores the increasingly close relationship between the social network and television (see confirmation at the foot of post). Twitter has not said how much it is paying for Bluefin, but industry speculation is that it is spending more than $70m (£44m) based in part on the $20.5m (£13m) Twitter has raised over its four-year life from investors including Softbank and Time Warner.

The four-year-old start-up focuses on measurement of social media conversations about TV and claims to be able to quantify audience engagement in the same way that Nielsen quantifies ratings audience viewership of TV.

Twitter will be able to use the data Bluefin digs out to sell to agencies and brands looking for insight in how they are performing in social media. It will also be able to forge a deeper relationship with TV firms looking to see what shows perform well in social media.

It deal also gives a strong indication that future income at Twitter will come from revenues generated by the second screen.

You only have to look at some of the numbers. Take ‘The X Factor’ – it generated more than 14 million Tweets in 2012, driven by integration of dynamic hashtags on air, celebrity Tweets, and a passionate Twitter audience.

The start of the live shows saw a high volume of engagement with a doubling of Tweets sent from last year. Twitter often acts like a barometer for public opinion. You can see that in how there were more mentions of James Arthur, the eventual ‘X Factor’ winner, from day one than any other contestant.

In the final there were 1.12 million Tweets from 505, 000 unique users. There were 387,000 mentions for James, compared to 86,000 for the runner-up, Jahmene Douglas.

Or look at the numbers from Sunday night’s Super Bowl game. It was a huge social TV moment for sport, the media and advertisers. According to figures from Bluefin Labs, the event racked up 30.6 million mentions on Twitter, Facebook, and GetGlue, up from 12.2 million one year prior.

Bluefin has a lot more going for it and has been called the “new TV Guide by Ad Age,” after it signed a partnership with US TV ratings firm Nielsen in December to produce the first-ever social TV ratings, which will become available in the autumn of this year.

With the Bluefin acquisition, that could put Twitter on the way becoming the Nielsen of  social TV ratings.

According to Ad Age, what sets Bluefin apart from other start-ups using Twitter’s firehose is that it “has encoded and fingerprinted a vast library of TV and uses semantic technology developed at MIT to match conversation in social media to content in shows and in ads”.

It says that Twitter could possible at some point target ads to that content, rather than just to keywords, as well as provide very granular data on how the ads fared.

Confirmation from Twitter

Ali Rowghani (@ROWGHANI), Chief Operating Officer, said: “Today we’re happy to announce that we have acquired Bluefin Labs, a leading social TV analytics company that provides data products to brand advertisers, agencies, and TV networks. We believe that Bluefin’s data science capabilities and social TV expertise will help us create innovative new ad products and consumer experiences in the exciting intersection of Twitter and TV.
“This acquisition reflects our commitment to the social TV market, and builds on ourexclusive partnership with Nielsen announced in December to develop the Nielsen Twitter TV Rating, the centerpiece of social TV measurement based on Nielsen’s SocialGuide platform. We intend to honor existing Bluefin customer contracts, but we will not continue to sell Bluefin’s product suite beyond the existing contracts. We plan to collaborate closely with Nielsen and SocialGuide on product development and research to help brands, agencies, and networks fully understand the combined value of Twitter and TV.

“As millions of people around the world experienced during Sunday’s Super Bowl broadcast, Twitter is an amazing complement to live television viewing. We look forward to working with Bluefin and our partners in the television industry to make the experience of Twitter and television even better,” from the Twitter blog.

From Bluefin Labs

“It’s a big day for social television and for us at Bluefin Labs – we’re announcing today that we’re joining Twitter!

“We’ve had an incredible time pioneering the field of social TV analytics over the last few years. Bluefin Labs started out as an academic pursuit in cross-modal machine learning that Mike andDeb brought out of the MIT Media Lab. With the close mentorship of Frank Moss and Brian Bedol, we grew that research effort into the world’s first industry-grade analytics platform to link social media commentary with TV shows and commercials at scale.

“The team of Bluefinners who built this technology and brought it to the media and marketing world is an amazing crew. But we didn’t do it alone. We’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from some of the most innovative people and companies in the world of media and advertising: marketers like P&G and PepsiCo, and TV networks such as CBS, Turner Broadcasting, FOX Broadcasting, and Discovery Communications.

“While our products have always included data from multiple social media services, the reality is that Twitter is the platform where the overwhelming majority ­– about 95% – of public real-time engagement with TV happens. So we couldn’t be more excited to join Twitter.

“Our work in social TV measurement and analytics to date have meant that Bluefin Labs has necessarily taken an objective, but passive, role in the evolution of social TV. Now as part of Twitter, we look forward to working closely with Nielsen, TV networks, advertisers, agencies, and the rest of the TV ecosystem to help shape the future of social TV. Our core team based in Cambridge, MA will remain in that office and grow it over time.

Lastly, thanks and a big congratulations to the extended Bluefin Labs family including our investors, advisors, and partners – especially Geoff Yang, Rachel Lam, and the tireless and passionate team at Brew Media Relations – who believed in us and in our ideas,” from Bluefins blog.

Twitter and TV

Twitter itself has talked in the past extensively about its relationship with TV and the UK team put out a brochure, “Tune in with Twitter”, taking a closer look at how Twitter and TV work together recently. In it Twitter, said:

“The relationship between Twitter and television is strongly symbiotic. Twitter users love talking  about what is happening on TV, TV viewers love using Twitter to see other viewers‘ opinions. Twitter is increasingly acting as the second screen to TV. In this publication we explore the links between these two screens.

“Twitter is the shortest distance between you and what interests you most. This interest is expressed in a huge volume of conversation. 400 million Tweets are sent every day.  As a result, when events happen in the real world, they happen on Twitter.

“More and more we’re finding this is true for TV. When stand-out moments happen on TV, spikes in related conversation happen on Twitter. In fact, according to Second Sync, 40% of all UK Twitter traffic at peak TV viewing time is about TV.

“Through the two distinct phenomena of discovery and engagement, Twitter and TV drive each other in a complimentary cycle. For example, a hashtag on air can boost engagement by organising viewers to tweet and interact. In the other direction, a TV-related Trend, or Tweet in a user’s timeline, can drive discovery.”