THE BLOG

Twitter's NFL Deal Maps Out Path To Success

18/10/2016 11:12

Twitter's recent deal with BAMTech and the NFL to provide users with quality live streaming of Thursday Night Football has really paid off and has been met with largely rave reviews by users.

By leaving all streaming issues to BAMTech, Twitter has been able to focus its resources on its core product and has already created a seamless, one-stop-shop for sports fans.

What this deal really shows is how well American football is complimented by social media. With a typical game clocking in at roughly three hours from start to finish, Twitter is a natural fit - allowing fans to stray on and off the platform without missing any of the action.

More than two million people watched NFL's Thursday Night Football game through Twitter on 22 September, up 34% on the previous week's game, and I expect that this figure will grow week by week. This is all against a backdrop of overall NFL TV ratings falling for the first four weeks of the season.

Another interesting development we've seen is how Twitter is seeking syndication deals with other publishers for the NFL content - it announced only hours before the first game it showed that it had signed its own deal with TIME. Clearly Twitter is seeking to push this premium content as far and wide as possible.

It is impossible to ignore Twitter's current perilous position, though. Its share price is plunging with prospective buyers pulling out day by day. However, the success of its NFL deal, especially if the numbers continue to rise, could see it become a much more compelling acquisition target.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has outlined his strategy to make live experiences a big part of the future of Twitter. His aim is to keep people on the social network for longer, increasing the opportunity for them to be presented with relevant advertising. So, the NFL deal is a great opportunity for Twitter to prove that it can be a valuable platform for advertisers - something that it hasn't achieved to date.

Twitter has showed that it is very much in tune with the needs and desires of 21st Century sports fans, especially of sports that could be considered 'minority', such as American football which has fairly low levels of engagement outside of the US. Such sports need to increase their audience and appeal to people all over the world, and Twitter could be the ideal platform for them to this.

Broadcasters, though, are wise to this too. In June, Walt Disney Co. - which owns ESPN and ABC - agreed to acquire a significant stake in the digital arm of Major League Baseball.

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