The Debut Of NFL On Twitter Was Smooth, But Not Entirely Without Issues

By Chris Smith on September 22, 2016


Did you watch the game last Thursday? Did you watch it on basic cable — or did you try the new space-age futuristic tech way of watching sports: live streaming on Twitter?

Being generally interested in OTT and live streams here at Zype, we were watching closely as Twitter and the NFL took a big step into trying something new. And guess what? For the most part, it went really, really well (technically).

It Needed To Go Well

Honestly, live streams of major events needed a win. We wrote a piece about why live streaming is so hard, where we noted some recent attempts that left a bad taste in cord cutters’ mouths. Then we wrote about the NFL/Twitter team up specifically, and whether or not it was a good business decision for the companies. It all hinged on the tech holding up and how it was implemented.

It was smooth . Not only was the stream easy to navigate to ( or the moments section), easy to watch, and had the added benefit of not requiring a cable sign-in and being completely free, but there were ways to watch it all on your big screens, too. Twitter did a great job launching their Apple TV app just in time, and accessing the game worked just like it did on the web and mobile apps.

Beyond the normal live stream delay, the tech held up under a lot of users and on mobile networks. We saw people watching the game in the grocery store, and I had the game on my phone between my car and my house. No hiccups.

Except some issues with the ads. They skipped, stuttered, and sometimes didn’t display at all (if, for example, it was an ad that was shown on cable but the rights weren’t there on Twitter). On the tech side, it was the only area we noticed any issues that would desperately need fixed.

We also hope they curate the stream’s Twitter feed a bit better, because instead of interesting commentary it was just normal, inoffensive tweets from the masses — harmless, but boring, too.

So, How Many People Watched?

Fewer than what people thought, but it might not be as big of an issues as some outlets are making it (the NYPost called it a “ modest success ” which is some low-key shade for sure). There was an average of 243,000 viewers per minute, with about 2.1 million viewers overall.

The problem is that they’re comparing it to the cable broadcast, which would absolutely have more viewers, that moves beyond “expected” and into a “no-brainer” territory. 14% of the average TV audience is not just good, it’s great for a first go-around. Yahoo Finance puts it best :

“ More than 90% of US households, or 112.5 million of them, have access to CBS, and with an average of 2.5 people per US household, that’s a reach of 281.25 million people. Twitter has only 62 million users in the US, since 80% of its base is outside the States. That’s a much smaller pool to reach. ”

If you remember, Yahoo had the actual first NFL stream last year and ended up with 15.2 million viewers. The numbers are still far from each other, but a lot can be explained away, once again by Yahoo Finance :

“ [...]Yahoo has 1 billion users across its platforms, and it set the game to auto-play on its homepage. Twitter didn’t do any auto-play, or even market the stream aggressively to its users. ”

Twitter paid less for 10 games than Yahoo did for one , too. $10 million vs. $20 million.

So, How Did The Ads Do?

Apart from the technical hiccups, really well. The WSJ found some nice numbers :

“ Advertisers such as Bank of America Corp., Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and Ford Motor Co. have bought sponsorship packages, which were priced between $1 million to $8 million. ”

Plus, factor in the fact that the ads had a 98% completion rate — meaning the viewers didn’t shut off the service during ads and the spots were able to finish the whole way through 98% of the time — means that those companies and video businesses that invested in advertising during the 10 games this seasons are going to be sitting very pretty.

Final Thoughts

In the end, it was a success no matter how you look at it. For the simple fact that the thing didn’t break or tear itself apart under the stress of that many viewers bodes well for the next 9 games. The question is, though: will those numbers grow after all the positive reviews and people hearing the tech was solid?

Only time will tell. Are you going to give it a shot?

If you already did, what did you think? Going to use Twitter again for the next game?

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