NEW YORK: Broadcast networks like NBC Universal, CBS and Fox are attempting to utilise social media to both drive up viewing levels and offer increasingly innovative services to advertisers.

NBC Universal recently forged tie-ups with Facebook and Twitter surrounding the Olympic Games in London, and witnessed beneficial results in terms of audience numbers.

This positive outcome resulted even though the network streamed the Games live online and via an app, but delayed showing many important events until primetime in the US.

"It was a really bright, shining example of how social could fuel ratings," Peter Naylor, NBC Universal's EVP, digital media sales, told Advertising Age. "People were really, really concerned about social being a spoiler, but it actually worked as an accelerant."

Naylor added that the 30 brands which bought digital ads during the Games had to buy TV airtime. "We are not really interested in selling digital adjacencies unless they've bought the core property," he said. "We know that broadcast and social work better together."

Elsewhere, CBS reported that its main portfolio of websites –, and – have all seen interest levels rise thanks to social media.

"As we push stuff onto Twitter and Facebook – a clip or a photo or a comment made by talent from one of our shows – we can see that large portions of the traffic to our sites are being driven by leads generated that way," Marc DeBevoise, SVP, general manager at CBS Interactive, said. "And, of course, more traffic to our sites drives more revenue."

Target, the retailer, GM, the car maker, and AT&T, the mobile group, have all sponsored web content linked to CBS's TV shows. Skype, Microsoft's web telephony service, took the same role with CBS Connect, a site drawing together social buzz about its programmes.

For its part, American Express, the financial services group, partnered with Glee, shown on Fox, to promote the Members Project, a scheme allowing web users to suggest and vote for good causes to receive funding.

The cast from the programme were utilised to promote this effort, and the social media profiles of numerous Glee characters on Twitter also formed a central part of this initiative.

Similarly, Lexus, the luxury auto marque, sponsored the USA Network's series Suits, one of the top five shows for affluent consumers, and a related social gaming effort, Suits Recruits, which featured its cars.

"I think that layering in dedicated social TV opportunities allows us to get closer to the desired consumer," said Kirsten Atkinson, media director for Team One, an agency for Lexus.

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by Warc staff