Should Twitter be able to reinvigorate its sluggish user growth and increase its revenue, we may look back on the summer of 2016 as when everything changed. That’s because this summer, Twitter has gone all-in on the live stream, pushing to become the hub of live content and social commentary.
It began in April, when the NFL announced that it had come to terms with Twitter to live stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this fall and winter. While there remain questions as to how the broadcasts will be packaged, the $8 million advertisers are reportedly paying for NFL live-stream packages are a reason to be optimistic. Twitter reportedly forked over $10 million for the rights to 10 Thursday Night Football broadcasts. In addition to advertising revenue, Twitter is hoping that the deal will bring turn more football fans to Twitter users and reverse a recent stagnation in the growth of new users.
The first broadcasts happened in July, when Twitter went live at Centre Court and with footage from Wimbledon. At best, the results of their first stream were mixed. The stream was difficult to find and it didn’t differentiate itself from other live streaming services but rest assured, the broadcasts at the All-England Club were just a test, according to Twitter. They’re focusing on improvements for the formal launch of the feature in September.
Two weeks later, Twitter announced a partnership with the NBA and most recently it struck deals with the MLB and the NHL, with broadcasts potentially beginning this season. According to an Ad Age report in early July, Twitter was in the final stages of closing “about 10” different partnerships with media providers to live stream.
It’s important to note that these partnerships do not necessarily mean that you’ll be able to watch your favorite leagues in live-action on your Twitter feed. To watch live Wimbledon matches, you still had to turn to an ESPN property and the NBA’s deal does not include broadcasts of live games. Rather, the NBA is creating two original shows that will be broadcasted on Twitter.
While it’s clear that the live streams are an attempt to attract more users to Twitter’s platform, Twitter will not require users to be signed in to an account in order to view the live content. According to Twitter CFO Anthony Noto, the 300 million logged-in users and 500 million logged-out users will all have the same experience when it comes to viewing live broadcasts on Twitter. The biggest difference, he said, is that Twitter will be able to curate content for their logged-in users based on their interests.
At the end of the day, Twitter claims they aren’t looking to replace traditional television broadcasts, and they’ve got a long way to go before they earn the rights to the most lucrative sporting events.
“We are looking to be an additive,” Noto said in an interview on GeekWire.com. “We are not just replicating the experience on TV. We combine it with a great timeline and many other social features.”
If recent months are any indication, however, these are the first steps as Twitter begins to make waves in this space. Fortunately for them, advertisers are lining up with their wallets open.