TODAY

– July 31, 2014

Twitter tunes in to TV partnerships ahead of IPO

(AP) — People don't just watch TV anymore; they talk about it on Twitter. From the comfort of couches, they share reactions to touchdowns and nail-biting season finales — and advertisers and networks are taking note.

Examples of Twitter's influence abound. The recent finale of "Breaking Bad" generated a record 1.24 million tweets. The conversation peaked at 22,373 tweets per minute according to analytics firm SocialGuide. People used the hashtag "GoodbyeBreakingBad" nearly 500,000 times. During this year's Super Bowl, sports fans generated 24 million tweets about the competition and nearly half of the game's nationally televised commercials contained hashtags that encouraged viewers to tweet.

Twitter, says Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst at research firm eMarketer, "creates a community, a bond between people that doesn't really exist without Twitter."

As Twitter prepares for its initial public offering, the San Francisco-based company is also working hard to insert itself into the TV advertising economy. In recent months, the social networking company has forged partnerships with television content owners such as CBS, MTV and the NFL through a program it calls Amplify. The platform lets content owners beam real-time video clips to Twitter users who may have seen —or could be interested in — their TV programming. It also allows marketers to communicate with viewers who saw their TV ads, extending commercial pitches to consumers' smartphones and tablets.

TV tie-ins allow Twitter to diversify its revenue stream beyond the relatively small niche of digital advertising campaigns, a move that should appeal to potential investors. On Thursday, Twitter unsealed documents for a Wall Street debut that could take place before Thanksgiving. While the company did not reveal how much money it makes from its TV partnerships, it touted its own "strength as a second screen for television programming."

Twitter wrote in its S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that "45% of television ads shown during the Super Bowl used a hashtag to invite viewers to engage in conversation about those television ads on Twitter."

Twitter's public nature makes it an especially attractive platform for tracking live-TV conversations. So much so that Nielsen recently began using Twitter's data to measure online social activity around TV programming, starting with this fall's TV season.

Nielsen will release its first "Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings" report on Monday. The study measures TV-related conversations on the social network. Nielsen found that in the second quarter of this year, 19 million people wrote 263 million tweets about live TV events, up 38 percent from a year earlier.

Some 19 million people tweet about TV shows, a 24 percent increase from last year. The audience measurement firm also found that many people read tweets about TV shows while they watch them — even if they don't post anything themselves. As a result, Nielsen says the Twitter TV audience for an average episode is 50 times larger than the number of people who are Tweeting about a show.

Separately, Nielsen found that the "Breaking Bad" finale was by far the most tweeted-about program last week.

On Sunday, the NFL showed just how Twitter-enabled promotions work. Minutes after Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones intercepted New England's Tom Brady, ending the quarterback's streak of 52 games with a touchdown pass, the NFL posted a video clip on Twitter. The clip shows Jones bobbling, and then snagging the ball before it hits the ground.

The 32-second clip was prefaced by an 8-second video ad for a Verizon Droid mobile phone. "Adam Jones ends the Pats undefeated season, Brady's TD streak AND a rainstorm. With 1 INT," the league tweeted.

By inserting itself into the online buzz, the NFL was able to remind people the game was going on live at its NFL Network channel. Meanwhile, it earned new revenue from Verizon, a longtime sponsor that wanted to showcase its NFL Mobile app.

The NFL has more than 5.1 million followers on Twitter. But its new partnership with Twitter means the tweet also went out to millions of other users who might be interested.

Hans Schroeder, the NFL's senior vice president of media strategy and development, says he expects promoted tweets will eventually reach tens of millions of fans, multiplying its reach.

"We think it'll drive tune-in to our games and drive more people into the experience through NFL Mobile," Schroeder says.

As part of the deal, Twitter shares some of the revenue from Verizon's advertising spend when the phone company pays for "promoted tweets." Previously, the money might have gone only to the league itself.

Twitter's projected 2013 revenue is about $582 million, according to research firm eMarketer. At the moment, the company generates tens of millions of dollars of revenue from all of its TV deals, including those with ESPN, Turner networks, CBS and others, according to Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research Group.

That's not huge. However, says Wieser: "This year, it's about getting the foot in the door."

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter estimates that Twitter gets just a small fraction of its revenue from the TV deals — around 1 percent. But by next year, the deals could amount to 5 percent, and 15 percent the year after, he says.

Twitter isn't alone in its quest to befriend TV content companies. Facebook, too, is recognizing the value of live TV chatter. Because of its sheer size — nearly 1.2 billion users versus Twitter's 218 million — Facebook has more conversations than any other social network. During the "Breaking Bad" finale, more than 3 million people generated 5.5 million "interactions," that is, status updates, comments or "likes."

For now, Facebook's TV partnerships are not intended to generate revenue, the company says. Rather, they are "focused on helping people discover great content," says Justin Osofsky, Facebook's vice president of media partnerships.

Over the past few months, Facebook has rolled out more Twitter-like features as competition between the world's leading social networks heats up. There are now hashtags on Facebook, and the company is encouraging celebrities to use its site to interact with fans — just as many of them do on Twitter.

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Written on 07/31/2014, 11:10 am by MATTHEW PERRONE, AP Health Writer
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Written on 07/31/2014, 11:08 am by 
LISA LEFF, Associated Press
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Written on 07/31/2014, 11:06 am by The Associated Press
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Written on 07/31/2014, 10:51 am by Gabriel Dillard
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Written on 07/31/2014, 9:48 am by 
SAMANTHA HENRY, Associated Press
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Written on 07/31/2014, 9:45 am by 
AMY TAXIN, Associated Press
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Written on 07/30/2014, 1:53 pm by The Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stocks are closing mixed after the Federal Reserve said the economy was strengthening enough for the central bank to continue cutting its stimulus. Bond yields rose Wednesday after the government reported that the U.S. economy grew at a robust annual rate of 4 percent this spring. Several companies fell after reporting results that disappointed investors. Genworth Financial sank 14 percent and Goodyear fell 8 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed little changed at 1,970. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 31 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,880. The Nasdaq composite rose 20 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,462. Utility companies fell the most in the S&P 500 index. Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose sharply, to 2.56 percent from 2.46 percent.
Written on 07/30/2014, 1:51 pm by RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press
(AP) — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for the computer woes that paralyzed the president's new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in testimony released Wednesday. Behind the administration's repeated assurances that consumers across the land would soon have seamless access to health care, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start. After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked "effective planning or oversight practices" for the development of HealthCare.gov, the online portal to coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. As a result the government incurred "significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed functionality," William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing Thursday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress. Its full report is also expected Thursday. Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO's recommendations. The congressional investigators recommended a cost control plan and other changes to establish clear procedures and improve oversight. Investigators found that the administration kept changing the contractors' marching orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and leading to tens of millions of dollars in additional costs. Changes were ordered in seemingly willy-nilly fashion, including 40 times when government officials did not have the initial authority to incur additional costs. The report faults the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services — for ineffective oversight. The Medicare agency, known as CMS, was designated to administer Obama's health care law. GAO concluded: — Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue. — The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million. — CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied it would start withholding payments. Then it quickly rescinded that decision. —The type of federal contract that the administration selected for HealthCare.gov was open-ended, which may have encouraged costly changes. Two contractors took the lead on the computerized system: Virginia-based CGI Federal built HealthCare.gov, the consumer-facing portal to subsidized private health insurance under the law. The site serves 36 states, while the remaining states built their own systems, with mixed results. QSSI, based in Maryland, was responsible for an electronic back office that helps verify personal and financial information to determine if consumers are eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums. The front end of the system locked up the same day it was launched, Oct. 1, and was down most of that initial month. The electronic back office had fewer problems. Despite crippling problems with the part of the system used by consumers, CMS ultimately paid nearly all of CGI's $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000, GAO said. Confronted with a flop, the White House sent in management consultant Jeff Zients as a troubleshooter. He removed CMS as project leader and gave the agency a supporting role. CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner later personally apologized to Congress saying that "the website has not worked as well as it should." Zients' rescue operation got the site working by early December. Another major contractor, Accenture, was brought in to help fix things. Eventually, some 8 million people managed to sign up, far exceeding expectations. Nonetheless, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down amid complaints by White House officials that the president was blind-sided by the problems. The original contractors testified to Congress that they did not have nearly enough time to test the system before it went live. Indeed, Tavenner took the unusual step of signing the operational security certificate for HealthCare.gov herself, after CMS security professionals balked. The site has since passed full security testing. The GAO's findings amplified earlier conclusions in a report by Zients after his team got the website to work. In addition to hundreds of software bugs, insufficient infrastructure and subpar monitoring of problems, the White House troubleshooter found "inadequate management oversight and coordination" that "prevented real-time decision making and efficient responses to address the issues." Obama has already weathered the worst storms from the bungled health care launch, so the report is unlikely to create major political problems for the White House and Democrats generally. But it does shine a light on what was going on behind the scenes even as administration officials fostered the impression that signing up for health care would be simple, like shopping online.

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