It might turn out to be one of the greatest fourth quarter comebacks in football history. Except this one didn’t take place on the gridiron.
Several big digital companies—Amazon and Verizon among them—were considered to be the front-runners for live streaming ten Thursday night NFL games in the upcoming season. But when the final whistle sounded, an underdog named Twitter ponied-up the surprisingly low $10 million bid and took home the win.
Despite declining TV ratings, the numbers for sporting events (like the NFL) and other live TV events (like NBC and Fox’s recent broadcasts of live musicals) are still drawing many millions of viewers per event.
The consequences of the cord-cutting trend are massive and have major implications for how we’ll consume media over the next few years, if not the next few decades.
Here’s why this is such a big development:
The Move Makes Sense
Given Yahoo’s recent successes with live streaming NFL games last fall, this Twitter-NFL deal simply means that the two sides are following the eyeballs. Yahoo’s live stream last season of a Buffalo-Jacksonville game saw 15.2 million unique viewers and 33.6 million video streams. More important, it also brought major traffic across Yahoo’s other channels.
Further, other social media publishers are transforming their own platforms to make them video-friendly. Snapchat and Periscope allow users to send videos and images to each other at an instant. Google has launched YouTube Red, which allows users to disable ads and feature original content. Facebook recently launched its new Video Hub to introduce new video content from a variety of brands and users. Facebook’s push for 360 Video and Live Video also speaks volumes to how much the company will prioritize video.
Twitter, however, took a major step forward with this week’s deal by launching a new live product with one of the world’s leading brands—the NFL. It remains to be seen how many users will visit the site to see those Thursday games, but…
It Could Solve Twitter’s Growth and User Acquisition Problem
According to current parameters of the deal, viewers do not have to be registered Twitter users in order to watch the game. However, Twitter isn’t banking on streaming the games alone to boost user growth; it is also releasing extensive and exclusive content that includes game highlights and pre-game Periscope broadcasts from players and teams. This, no doubt, will not only keep users streaming, but also interested in the unique second-screen experience Twitter provides.
Twitter Can Monetize Games Effectively
Twitter has always been good at capturing the spirit of live events in real time with its ad product suite. With event, keyword/hashtag and TV targeting, Twitter has allowed brands to tap into this and target users who are watching and interacting with these events in real time.
Twitter also continues to roll out new product suites that allow for this to be a successful enterprise for advertisers. With a combination of its existing product suite and a focus on pre-roll and video retargeting, Twitter is looking to generate a big ROI or its advertisers.
So, What’s Next?
Online content producers will look to Twitter’s deal with the NFL as a precedent for receiving compensation for what they create. Will this increase the value of influencer content online significantly?
What has happened here is also going to raise questions, such as:
- Will other social media platforms, and companies in general, follow Twitter’s deal? Where will this place the NBA and NHL, or even live concert streams?
- Will this demolish the pay-per-view system if users are able to access this content for free via their social media channels? Will Netflix and Hulu get their skin in the game for live events?
- What does this mean for TV? Will users still turn to cable to watch live events and shows if they can access them in a more mobile-friendly world?
- How will this affect advertising analysis and measurement for social media programs in the future?
We’re not sure anyone’s crystal ball is calibrated well enough to answer these questions. But here’s what we do know: Twitter—a social network that pundits like to bash—has gotten back in the game, literally and figuratively, with its NFL deal.