Now, Roberts is turning to Twitter to help him do just that.
Comcast and Twitter on Wednesday announced they are teaming up to try to capitalize on the hundreds of thousands of conversations about TV shows that unfold each day on the popular micro-blogging site. The two companies have struck a strategic partnership to introduce a feature designed by Comcast engineers called "See It" that will connect consumers with TV shows.
"We are trying to take advantage of all these social media conversations by linking people to our great content," said Sam Schwartz, Comcast Cable's chief business development officer. "Social media has become another way people find TV shows they want to watch, and we want to be right there in that discovery process."
In the last two years, Twitter has turned out to be a digital water cooler with thousands of people around the country simultaneously engaging in real-time conversations about favorite television shows or sporting events as they unfold. Television executives have been trying to figure out how best to harness Twitter as a promotional platform to scoop up new viewers.
The partnership between the two companies will allow Comcast Cable Xfinity customers to access NBC TV shows — including "The Voice," "Blacklist" and "Chicago Fire"; movies; and sporting events, including "Sunday Night Football" — directly from a Twitter message. Eventually, Schwartz said, the company expects to expand the service for use by other TV distributors such as DirecTV or Time Warner Cable.
"Comcast is taking a leap forward in social TV by enabling Twitter users to more easily find and view the shows they want to watch and discover new shows," Roberts said in a prepared statement. "Twitter complements the live viewing experience and is an ideal partner for Comcast and NBCUniversal."
The new feature is expected to roll out in November for shows that run on NBCUniversal networks. Comcast wanted to have the new feature operational before NBC's broadcast of the Winter Olympics in February.
Here is how it will work: The "See It" button will appear on computer or smartphone screens and enable a menu of options. Viewers will be able to click through to tune in to the television live, set their DVRs to record shows or queue them up through Comcast's on-demand feature on their set-top boxes. Viewers also will have the ability to tune in to shows online or on their mobile devices.
"This brings the remote control to all places that consumers might be," Schwartz said. "If someone sees a conversation on social media about a show, it will be easier to take the next step to see the show."
Comcast, whose NBCUniversal media company also owns the Fandango movie ticketing service, also plans a feature for social media users to buy movie tickets. Consumers will be able to use the "See It" button to click through to buy a ticket to see a particular movie at a cineplex.
The Philadelphia-based cable giant said the relationship with Twitter also includes advertising opportunities for its wholly owned media company, NBCUniversal. It plans to embed sponsored video clips into tweets to promote its TV shows.
Last week, Twitter filed its prospectus for an initial public offering.
Some 19 million people in the U.S. produced 263 million tweets about television in the second quarter this year, a 38% increase in volume of comments from a year earlier, according to a report this week from Nielsen.