Twitter eyes the total media prize – acquires social TV firm Bluefin Labs

5 Feb 2013

Twitter’s claim to be a media company that has technology at its core is becoming clearer. Just one day after it saw over 24.1m tweets flutter during the Super Bowl it has emerged that the social network turned media giant has acquired social TV analytics company Bluefin Labs.

Bluefin Labs is a social TV analytics company providing solutions to brand advertisers, advertising agencies, and TV networks.

In Bluefin’s own words: “Bluefin Labs’ technology and data enable clients, for the first time, to tap into data at scale that links people’s social media commentary to the shows and commercials they watch on TV. Grounded in 15 years of cognitive science and machine learning research at the MIT Media Lab, Bluefin Labs was founded by Deb Roy and Michael Fleischman in 2008 and is headquartered in Cambridge, MA.”

The acquisition of Bluefin by Twitter comes at an interesting point – where the traditional worlds of media like newspapers, radio and TV are coming to realise they have no future without the internet and where because of social media businesses have their finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment like never before.

It’s where old media meets big data. And Twitter wants to be in the driver’s seat.

According to Bluefin during the weekend’s Super Bowl it was able to analyse some 30.6m tweets and Facebook comments.

The acquisition of Bluefin – estimated at between US$50m and US$100m – makes sense. For Twitter, which is keen to monetise through advertising – it will enable it to be where the audience is and steal a march on rivals like Facebook and Google in real-time.

Enter the second screen

For broadcasters like Sky, for example, the second screen experience is a major opportunity to be exploited. It has already brought out a compelling range of complementary apps ranging from Sky Go to Sky Sports apps such as its Formula 1 app for the iPad that puts the viewer inside the helmet cam of the racing driver or its Champion’s League app that gives viewers the same set of analytics as football commentators.

Yesterday research from Sky revealed that over half of Irish TV viewers have a second screen device in their hands while watching TV.

And just over a year ago Sky bought the Zeebox social media platform that makes it possible for friends to connect with each other around TV shows and get more information about the show they’re watching.

Twitter’s acquisition of Bluefin shows that it has its eye on this second screen market and is marching in step with progress. It not only wants to be a media company, it wants to be the ultimate media company.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years