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Twitter might get in the way of Facebook telling its social-TV story to marketers if it keeps buying up the third-party analytics companies the latter seeks to partner with for measurement.
Two social-TV companies announced they had been acquired by Twitter for undisclosed sums: France-based Mesagraph and UK-based SecondSync. The second had announced an international partnership with Facebook in January to analyze conversations about TV that take place on the social network on both public and private pages.
As Facebook has set out to challenge Twitter's supremacy in social TV, it's been hampered by the black box of commentary that plays out on non-public pages that make use of the social network's privacy settings. Insights made available through the SecondSync partnership were intended to shine a light on that and be offered to Facebook clients, starting in the U.S. and the U.K.
Facebook was also looking to SecondSync to make the case that Twitter wasn't the only medium that mattered for real-time conversations about TV happening at scale. A white paper the company published in February, "Watching With Friends," asserted that 60% of daily Facebook interactions about a TV show occur during the airing of that show, based on analysis done across the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
SecondSync's announcement of the Twitter acquisition excludes any mention of Facebook, of course. It reads, in part: "Twitter is the only place that hosts a real-time, public conversation about TV at scale."
Twitter and Facebook both declined to comment on whether Facebook will stay on as a customer of SecondSync. (SecondSync's website says that the "current UK product will continue to be available for an interim period.") But it's hard to imagine that Facebook would want to share internal data with one of its biggest competitors.
WPP-owned Kantar Media owns a minority stake of SecondSync. Kantar had its own news with Twitter today, announcing that it would expand its Twitter TV measurement to Nordic countries, Russia, and parts of Africa and southeast Asia.
It's not the first time that Twitter has acquired a social-TV company that had been working with Facebook. Last August it announced the acquisition of Trendrr, which a month earlier had been distributing a study it did for Facebook. It had concluded that TV-related conversation on Facebook was five times greater than on all other social networks combined during a one-week sample period in May 2013.
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One of Twitter's most important acquisitions last year, Bluefin Labs -- acquired for around $67 million in stock in a deal announced in February 2013 -- had also been working with Facebook when it was still independent. According to two sources familiar with the matter, Bluefin and Facebook were in the early stages of conducting research on the total levels of social conversation happening on Facebook -- on public and non-public pages. It was an effort similar to what SecondSync later undertook.
Bluefin's semantic technology was quickly put to use to serve Twitter's top line. It was incorporated into TV ad targeting, which lets marketers show promoted tweets to Twitter users based on the shows they've watched and the TV ads they've likely seen.