Twitter is close to reaching partnerships with TV networks that would bring more high-quality video content and advertising to the social site, according to people familiar with the matter.
The San Francisco-based company has held talks with Viacom about hosting TV clips on its site and selling ads alongside them, said two of the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private. Twitter has also discussed a content partnership with Comcast's NBC Universal, said two of the people.
Twitter, which began in 2006 as a service for 140-character status updates, is racing to add video content that will get users to spend more time on the site and watch ads. Building on its existing partnerships with Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN, Weather Channel and Turner Broadcasting System, Twitter is seeking to add more entertainment and news video, two people familiar with the plan said. NBC, which also owns the USA Network, and Viacom, which owns MTV and Nickelodeon, would make attractive partners given the popularity of their content.
The partnerships would let Twitter stream videos on its site and split the resulting ad revenue with the networks, said one of the people familiar with the discussions. One or more deals could be reached by mid-May, and Twitter may strike deals with other networks, the person said.
Gabriel Stricker, a spokesman for Twitter, declined to comment, as did Mark Jafar, a spokesman for Viacom, and Cameron Blanchard, a spokeswoman for NBC.
Last June, a third of active Twitter users posted on the site about something they watched on TV, up from 26 percent at the beginning of the year, Nielsen Holdings NV (NLSN) said in a report on social media last year. Twitter and Nielsen have agreed to form a partnership to measure the amount of online discussion being generated by TV programs.
In February, Twitter also bought Bluefin Labs, a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup that makes software that lets advertisers, agencies and networks monitor and analyze social-media comments about TV shows and commercials.
Peter Chernin, a former News Corp. president, last November joined Twitter's board to help the company navigate the media industry, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said at the time.
Last year, Twitter teamed up with NBC to promote use of the social site among audiences of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Twitter tracked more than 150 million Twitter posts about the games over the course of the 16-day event, it said on its blog.
The TV push coincides with the Twitter's expansion into music. The company is planning to release a mobile application that lets users stream and share music with others on the social site, a person familiar with the matter said March 14.