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Twitter have beaten Amazon, Facebook, Yahoo and Verizon to the rights to stream 10 of the 16 Thursday Night Football NFL matches for approximately $10 million, reportedly not the highest bidder, with the NFL opting for international reach over larger financial investment (Bloomberg). This follows the social media platform’s multi-year partnership with the NFL, allowing them to deliver video and other content including in-game highlights to the sport’s fans on a daily basis. Furthermore, pre and post-game broadcasts from teams and players via periscope provides fans with a more immersive experience. Twitter will make these matches available for free in a bid to boost NFL following outside of the United States. These 10 games will be simulcast on NFL Network, NBC or CBS and Sky Sports in the UK.
NFL is growing in popularity and made waves in the digital landscape in 2015 by partnering with Yahoo!. Yahoo! delivered a free, global live streams of a NFL game, the first time this content has been available without authentication. Last season’s game between Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills, hosted at Wembley, was reportedly streamed to over 15.2 million people in 185 countries (at a reported cost of $17 million, (Bloomberg), beating the previous sport streaming record set by a 2014 World Cup match between Belgium and USA. Yahoo!’s larger investment did however allow them the freedom to sell advertisement during the stream while Twitter will stream NBC and CBS advertising, with the ability to sell only a small portion of adverts (Yahoo!).
Twitter are optimistic that this venture will attract new users (including former cable TV subscribers and younger viewers who do not have cable TV) and expand into next generation real-time content. They hope that by combining the ability to watch and interact with the NFL from the same device on the same platform will cater for those who currently second screen. It is also possible people streaming content on smaller screens will have the option to open and close a stream of tweets from their friends and commentators. Other websites will be able to embed Twitter live stream, increasing their reach beyond their current 66 million US users (Bloomberg).
The NFL’s partnership with Twitter seems slightly experimental and they are hoping to reach more viewers, particularly on their mobile devices. It is said that Thursday Night Football matches will be available to anyone Twitter counts as a user, removing the need to login and giving them an estimated reach of 800 million potential global viewers (The Guardian).
The NFL’s biggest broadcast deals expire in 2021 and Twitter’s venture is likely to go a long way in determining the future of its digital broadcasting strategy.