'Raising Hope' marks service's first launch

Twitter is getting its first test drive as a launch pad for TV programming.

The social media platform will be one of the digital hubs for a full-episode preview 11 days ahead of the third-season premiere of the Fox comedy “Raising Hope.” While the episode will be available on other platforms, only Twitter users who retweet will be rewarded with a video message from the series’ cast thanking them for spreading the word.

The “Hope” premiere, which is available starting Friday, can be watched within a tweet without having to follow a link outside Twitter per the “expanded tweet” format the company introduced in June for select media partners to showcase photos and video excerpts of their programming. That feature can be accessed either on Twitter.com, its mobile website or apps for Twitter access via wireless devices like the iPad app, which was reintroduced earlier this week as part of a broader redesign of the service.

“We though this was a nice integration opportunity as Twitter becomes more and more multimedia, with in-line playback,” said Bill Bradford, senior VP of digital media at Fox.

The integration is part of a broader Fox ad buy on Twitter, but more significantly, a furthering of Twitter’s already close alignment with the medium. Fred Graver, head of TV at Twitter, is looking to establish the company as more than just a second-screen companion while a show airs.

“We’re now talking with our partners at the networks, production companies and teh talent about being a great way to alert the audience as to what’s coming up and to keep shows top of mind between episodes, too,” he said.

While Twitter has clearly been taking steps to be more than just a referral source for content to the actual home for content, Graver stopped short of suggesting it represented any kind of fundamental repositioning of what the service is. “It’s not like we’re getting into the distribution business,” he said. “That’s not what this is about.”

Enhancing Twitter with exhibition features, however, could help drive advertising revenue beyond text-only features like “Promoted Tweets.” That possibility blurs the line between partner and competitor for Twitter and media companies like Fox, which may not mind letting its content be shown outside of its own real estate as long as it helps drive consumers back to its own properties.

While Twitter technically hosts the premiere, it originates from Fox servers and is streamed into a Fox-powered player.

“The ‘Hope’ premiere is not exclusive to Twitter. It will also be available on Fox.com, Hulu, VOD, authenticated websites for pay-TV distributors and the series’ page on Facebook.

Fox has been aggressive about leveraging digital platforms for pre-air episode streaming to drive tune-in for TV premiere. Last month, the network previewed the pilots for “The Mindy Project” and “Ben and Kate” in similar fashion but Twitter was not one of the participating partners.

Promoting “Hope” is crucial for Fox given the series kicks off a new two-hour comedy block at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 2. The premiere episode, which will be pulled at midnight on Sept. 27, will be distributed via Twitter account @RaisingHopeFOX and features the hashtag #sharehope.

Fox announced a separate partnership earlier this week with TrueAnthem, a research firm that tracks sharing of TV content, but it will not take effect in time to monitor the “Hope” integration.

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