Ahead of Twitter’s one billion IPO, the 140 character social network has been strengthening its relation with TV. In India where the network is yet to find a dominant presence like its counterpart Facebook, the company is trying hard to crack the market in some interesting ways. Recently, Twitter India tied up with India’s first DTH service provider Airtel Digital TV, the DTH service arm of leading telecom operator Bharti Airtel to bring live tweets on the idiot box.

The story that was reported by us a day before its implementation was labelled as a revolutionary innovation in the DTH industry across the world that allows customers to experience Twitter on TV. According to the partnership, Airtel Digital TV customers will be able see what celebrities, sports personalities, etc. are tweeting about popular TV programmes on their TV screen itself. Besides customers will be able to tweet about their favourite TV shows across channels while watching it.

The service comes at no cost and can be enjoyed by all Airtel Digital TV customers across the country but right now has been limited to a few of them. Thankfully, last week I was at my parent’s place in Bangalore and had the opportunity to find out more about the revolutionary innovation and what are the existing loopholes in it.

How does it work?

After spending some time browsing some TV channels, Colors TV was one of the channels that has tied up with the program. While a show is being aired on your right side, the screen displays a green button with the ‘Blue Bird’ to click and navigate through the Twitter conversations. As soon as you click on the green button on your remote, a stream of tweets pops up on the right hand side. The slider displaying tweets takes over around 20% of your TV screen. The below screen grab gives you a quick look how the tweets were being aired while I was watching a repeat telecast of “Comedy Nights With Kapil”.

Twitter Airtel DTH

The slider has 4 options to play around. Navigate allows you to scroll through the tweets listed, Settings allows you to disable the tweet slider option to be permanently disabled, Close removes the slider from the screen for the time being and Switch tells you how your tweet can be also displayed on TV. To have your tweets displayed, either you will have to pick up your mobile or you need to grab your laptop and tweet your thoughts using #ONTV. The catch here is that the tweets are screened first; your chances are bleak if you are not influential. While I was going through, I saw tweets by celebrities promoting their soon to be aired shows and promotional tweets by Colors. The below screen grab shows you how you can tweet and hope to get your tweet displayed on TV.

Twitter Airtel DTH social TV

The good

The good part of bringing tweets to TV is the ongoing effort of Twitter to bring on the Social TV concept in the country. Internet infrastructure in the country is still a problem and TV is the biggest medium in the country. So with this deal Twitter has created one more avenue to drive traffic to its service. The idea of curating tweets and displaying them on TV will attract new users and act as a reminder to the dormant ones.

Twitter today has definitely become an important companion in news rooms, from news to shows, every one is holding tweets as a source of information and displaying them. So there is already a buzz about the service, thanks to the latest love towards the medium by politicians, which has helped Twitter.

For TV channels, it will become another source of showing conversations by celebrities and their views about the channel’s shows, while the channel can promote its own shows too.

And the bad

The bad is that in the current form, the move is not at all revolutionary and for a prolific Twitter user that I am it is a nuisance. Not only does it take away 20% of the screen but at the same time if I want to join in the conversation I will have to pick up my mobile. So the question is when I will have to play around with a mobile why would I block my TV experience and see the tweets on TV instead? I can simple make a list of #ONTV and scroll through it. So for a prolific Twitter user it is really not interesting.

I doubt how many new users would be aware of this service when a majority of people in the country have no clue what Twitter is. My parents were not aware till I had to explain to them about the entire thing and the response was – well it is blocking my TV screen and you can’t read clearly what the tweets are about. So my guess is this service might just excite the dormant ones or the ones who might have heard of Twitter and would like to give it a try after seeing the tweets of their favorite Bollywood celebs. But once they get a hang of it, I doubt if they would be navigating the tweets via the remote rather than on their mobile.

Finally, screening the tweets is a necessity otherwise it might just be junk displayed on TV. However, it would be interesting if the TV Channel is open enough to not block tweets that are genuine feedback, else tweets would be nothing but ads.

Bringing Twitter to TV is no doubt a great move but right now the limitations in the tie up is killing the experience and openness of Twitter for which it has been popular globally. Going further we will have remote controls that will make live conversations with TV possible and then these features could truly revolutionize our experience.

For example, going further we might witness India-Australia Cricket Test series on TV while we are allowed to tweet live from the remote itself, chat with match experts, play contests hosted by brands and have a two-way experience. The move has been made but right now just displaying screened tweets on TV and calling it revolutionary is a bit too far fetched.