TL;DR Yeah, NFL on Twitter is good!
It’s been rough for a while over at Twitter:
User growth declined in 2015
Monthly active users has been flat for 6 quarters
Shares were down 66% before the NFL announcement (then climbed 2%)
User growth has increased for Snapchat (beating out Twitter with 150 million daily users, plus 10 BILLION daily video views) and Facebook (1.71 billion monthly active users) -- two companies that have seen a successful harness of online video
Twitter ( daily users) needed to start making bold moves to regain relevancy, so they shelled out around $10 million dollars to the NFL for 10 Thursday night games and beat out reportedly higher bids from Amazon, Yahoo! and Verizon. Facebook backed out because they couldn’t come to an agreement on ads (they reportedly wanted ALL OF THEM).
Here's Why It's Smart For Twitter
Twitter is all about engagement and breaking news. Being in the moment is Twitter’s bread and butter, and what better way to invest in that than live streaming sports? They can give the communal sports experience to more people, while getting users to use their social platform.
Showing the games from the NFL ON Twitter will compel users to USE Twitter while watching, because they’re already there anyway -- so why not tweet about it? It cannot get easier than that. Plus, this is a great way to possibly take back some of that market share lost to Facebook Live and Snapchat. NFL games were pulling in about 20+ million viewers per game last year, so having that many extra eyes and fingers on your social platform sounds like a resounding win. Yahoo! actually gave the NFL its first streaming-only shot in 2015 too, and had 15.2 million unique viewers and 33.6 million total views show up, INCLUDING a claim that 33% of the streams came from international users (the game was in London). Grabbing viewers that might not otherwise have access to games in the States is also a huge plus.
Diehard fans will always prefer to go to the stadium while others will prefer to physically be around friends and family for events, but having the option to still get a similar experience if you’re sick or just don’t feel like making an effort is entirely welcomed. Plus, without specifics as to how the streams are going to be displayed/offered on Twitter, we might even see people connecting devices to TVs and refuse to let a mobile experience be a solitary experience. Many computers have HDMI ports and Macs can make use of AirPlay mirroring, for example, and Chromecast can mirror Android devices as well as Chrome. We also know that Twitter is in talks to bring their app to Apple TV.
From the NFL’s perspective, this is also great. More people watching means more people talking, more excitement about the events, wider reach, and, of course, more eyes on advertising! Twitter is getting 15 advertising spots to sell commercials during each game under the deal (which might seem like a lot, but most broadcasts last for more than three hours -- and there’s only about 11 minutes of actual football action -- so the NFL isn’t giving up much… especially when Facebook wanted all the ad spots), which is a good way for them to make some money back from the investment and help prove that it was worth it from a monetary standpoint, not just a usage standpoint.
Granted, all of this is only good if there are no hiccups putting the NFL on Twitter , but the incentives for people to give it a shot are there! The whole thing is going to be free, without authentication (like having to sign in to your cable provider to prove you’re a paying cable subscriber), to “ the over 800 Million registered and non-registered users worldwide on the Twitter platform on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.“
So yes, it should prove to be a smart decision for Twitter to pay to help the NFL dip a bigger toe into streaming OTT live games! It’s a mutual understanding that cable-only broadcasts are only a piece of the puzzle nowadays, not the entire picture, and Twitter and the NFL have a great chance of winning out for those 10 games this coming season by taking a piece of that cord-cutting pie. Oh, and of course, Twitter users will win too.
But That's Not All
According to the NYTimes, Twitter has a bunch of live streaming deals in addition to putting the NFL on Twitter. Wimbledon, CBS News, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Pac-12 Networks, with ongoing talks with Major League Soccer and PGA. They’re gambling big on live video, so stay tuned to see if it works out in their favor.