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USA’s ‘Suits’ Gets Down and Flirty with Tinder App

Cabler aims to drive tune-in through promo on startup’s part-game, part-hookup app

USA Network is the first TV network to hook up with social startup Tinder, whose app lets users anonymously connect to members of the opposite sex with mutual interests, in a youth-targeted promo for season 3 premiere of scripted drama “Suits.”

Tinder, whose lead investor is IAC, launched the app in September 2012 and claims users have made more than 100 million matches to date. The app — part game, part casual-dating service — shows a series of photos, first names and ages of other Tinder users nearby. You then either “heart” or ixnay them, and if two users “like” each other they’re then able to chat.

USA’s promo on Tinder is intended to drive tune-in for the July 16 season premiere of “Suits,” particularly among younger auds for whom the app has become explosively popular. Tinder has not disclosed number of active users or downloads (even to USA) but says the app facilitates more than 1.5 million new introductions daily with more than 50% of users logging on multiple times daily.

“The most important thing is that we’re exposing the show to people who aren’t aware of it,” said Alexandra Shapiro, USA’s exec veep of marketing and digital. Viewers 18-34 — particularly men — are “an incredibly hard audience to reach.”

Starting Saturday, when Tinder users log in they’ll find their first potential match either “Suits” law partner Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht) or paralegal Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle, pictured above), depending on their preference settings for hooking up with men or women. If a user “likes” the character’s profile, they’ll have access to exclusive content from the show with sneak peeks, audio greetings and video clips available only to those on Tinder.

In return, USA will promote the app on-air through snipes and across social media channels. No money is changing hands through the partnership.

It’s possible USA risks a certain “ugh” factor among those leery about Tinder’s casual-hookup implications. But execs pointed out that if you’re not on Tinder, you probably won’t even know about the promo.

Tinder, for its part, says it is not a “hookup app” but is for making friends and networking. “The overall vision for Tinder is social discovery in general, not just dating,” a rep said.

USA’s pact with Tinder complements other ways cabler is trying to push “Suits” to skein’s “socially rabid fan base,” Shapiro said. NBCUniversal-owned cabler has bought promoted tweets on Twitter, as well as ads on Facebook, ESPN.com and other youth-skewing sites as part of larger marketing campaign.

As for whether Tinder really will boost viewing numbers, Shapiro said USA will look for shifts in 18-49 audience composition. “There’s no downside to this partnership… it’s relatively little effort,” she said.

After Shapiro discovered many of the network’s younger employees are active Tinder users, USA reached out to the West Hollywood-based startup about a partnership. Turns out “Suits” is one of Tinder topper Sean Rad and co-founder Justin Mateen’s favorite shows and they agreed to the marketing stunt on the spot: so, love at first sight, then.

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