Twitter Goes Live with Thursday Night Football

Twitter Live NFL stream

Twitter and the social media sports world chalked up a “W” after the first of 10 NFL live-streamed games garnered positive reaction, and a 4% $TWTR boost, Thursday.

The game, which appeared in Twitter’s Moments tab, drew more than 2.1 million viewers. An average of 243 thousand people were watching the stream at a given time. The TV broadcast on CBS and NFL Network drew 15.4 million viewers, but that isn’t a benchmark to compare the Twitter numbers to.

The viewership numbers released by Twitter on Friday were the first such numbers released by the decade-old social media company. As Darren Rovell suggested though, Thursday may have marked Twitter’s shift from a social-focused company to a media company.

It is a pivot we have seen social networks make in the past, and one they have needed to make to survive; see Facebook and Snapchat’s evolution into content producing and sharing giants.

For Twitter, much like the 20 teams that will appear live on the network this season, Friday marked the start of a week of preparation. The Twitter live-stream experience is subject to change — the flexibility of social media is beautiful. Here is what opendorse saw in the Twitter film room.

Where Twitter Won

Most of the positive reaction generated by the Twitter broadcast centered around the stream’s quality. There was minimal drop off in the picture quality amongst the TV broadcast, Twitter’s mobile app and the online stream. The biggest problem Twitter could have run into was poor broadcast quality. Hot take: it’s easier to promote a high-quality product.

So how did Twitter go about promoting that product?

Understandably, the landmark deal between Twitter and the NFL generated a ton of earned media for the San Francisco-based company’s largest live streaming venture to date. Outlets like The Wall Street Journal and CNN Money did pre and postgame coverage outlining the impact Twitter hoped to generate from the stream.

Twitter and the NFL also tapped the Twitter reach of teams on the docket for future Thursday night games. Among other teams, three of the top five teams in terms of Twitter followers tweeted out a graphic containing the future schedule of live-streamed events. The Seahawks, Cowboys and Broncos have a combined 5.24 million followers.

Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, and his 224,000 Twitter followers, is also teaming up with Twitter providing live analysis of the games via Twitter-owned Periscope. His postgame reaction to the Jets-Bills matchup was watched by 47,145 viewers.

Needs Coached Up

The curated feed Twitter provided alongside the broadcast was the most mentioned downside Thursday. Unable to control the feed, users were at times inundated with tweets from accounts that at best were unrecognizable and at worst meaningless to viewers.

Users’ ability to choose their individual experience is at the foundation of what makes Twitter so great. There should be a couple of options for users in the future.

That being said, there should still be a feed that reaches the entire viewership. The feed is another opportunity to monetize the livestream. I expected to see promoted tweets from brands in the curated feed, but didn’t. Whether that was just a matter of them getting lost in the cluter or not being there at all, chalk it up to a missed opportunity.


From Mark J. Burns in 2014:

“Even with other channels like Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and YouTube, Twitter clearly remains the vehicle of choice for sports, especially with fans. According to Navigate Research — a Chicago-based research, measurement and analysis company — sports fans are 67 percent more likely to use Twitter as their second-screen viewing experience compared to non-sports fans. The platform’s versatility and its concise messaging make it the industry’s ideal real-time content provider and now a built-in part of the sports world.”

Twitter and the NFL combined those screens Thursday. It just made sense that Twitter won the NFL livestream bid. The two have always shared a symbiotic relationship, with most of the live conversation about games happening on Twitter.

Look for Twitter to continue to retool the broadcast experience, and don’t expect the NFL to continue to work toward a more online-only viewing experience.

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