The relationship between TV viewing and Twitter has been clear from a consumer point of view for a while now. Many of us have developed a habit of tweeting while watching TV, particularly when it relates to a large national or international event. But we haven’t yet seen Twitter really do much about this. While there have been some experiments (none of which have really taken off) by individual TV shows to integrate Twitter into the viewing experience, for example including tweets live in a newsfeed, there haven’t been any significant undertakings by Twitter to develop a new way of integrating it with the TV experience in a new way. Until now that is. Twitter is about to embark on a unique experiment with the US version of the X Factor, to allow fans to vote for contestants via Twitter, as well as the usual SMS and phoneline channels, together with voting via Facebook and an upcoming Verizon mobile app.

The voting will work specifically via DMs sent to the official USA X Factor Twitter account, and will not take into account public comments. This seems like a slightly unusual way to do things, though it is most likely borne out of the fact that they don’t want people to be able to analyse voting trends publicly via Twitter, ahead of the real result. It will debut on November 2nd for users and it represents one of the biggest moves for Twitter to become integrated with TV, aligning themselves with a media powerhouse through the broadcaster Fox.

This isn’t the first official move that Twitter has made into the world of TV, as earlier this year they announced a partnership with the weather channel, that saw weather related tweets become part of the real show. The integration with the X Factor USA is the most significant so far, not only because of the significant media partner in Fox, but also because it shows the ‘medium’ of Twitter being used in a specific way. It’s not just about presenting people with tweets made during the show, but using the mechanics of Twitter to adapt slightly and fit with an intrinsic part of the reality show format. It shows Twitter’s willingness to work with and develop media integration in a new way.

The money maker?

More importantly for Twitter however, is whether this integration will lead to a new form of monetisation. On this, chief executive Dick Costolo is a little cagey. While it seems that there is no financial tie-in behind this deal, he does claim that “Benefits will accrue to us” and that they “are going to result in financial benefits down the road.” It’s evident from this that Twitter aren’t making money from these kinds of deals yet, but that of course is the intention as the service develops. It’s something that Twitter will need to get right very early on, as this immediately sets them apart from Facebook. While companies would need to invest in a Facebook app for something like this to function well, there is no direct payment necessary to Facebook for something like this to work. Twitter has to play it carefully here, as Facebook has the critical mass needed, so if Twitter end up over-charging it will be too tempting for broadcasters, publishers etc.. to go straight for where the eyeballs are and focus on Facebook.