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Twitter makes 1st down with NFL streaming deal


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Twitter makes 1st down with NFL streaming deal

Twitter Inc.scored in the live-streaming game when it inked a one-year deal to live broadcast 10 National Football League "ThursdayNight Football" matchups.

Announced April 5, the deal allows Twitter to broadcast the Thursdaynight games to its users for free. Twitter will offer the games alongside , CBS (US) and the NFL Network (US).

Across the board, analysts are bullish about the deal for boththe social media platform and the league.

"Twitter has arguably the best live platform. The NFL, it'sthe third time they've sold those 10 games," Chris Bevilacqua, co-founder ofsports and media advisory firm Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, said in an interview."It wasn't about somebody that pays a lot of money. They already got that bythe [CBS Corp.] and [] deals. Thisis more of a sociological experiment."

For Twitter, it is a chance to grow the number of users on theplatform. The social media company has struggled in the last year to grow its monthlyactive users, causing its stock to plummet.

"Twitter is taking this deal because it's sort of a secondlease on life for them," digital media consultant Alan Wolk said in an interview."The narrative has been Twitter is dying and everyone has been writing Twitteroff. This makes them relevant again for the next couple of months anyway."

By partnering with social media, the NFL, meanwhile, is lookingto broaden its reach across the globe and generations. While Twitter's growth rateis waning, 32% of Internet users ages 18-29 used the platform in 2015, accordingto a Pew Research study.Twitter has said that 79% of its users are outside of the U.S. and 80% use Twitteron mobile.

"You can't discount the millennials aspect in the sensethat every sport needs to reintroduce itself to the next generation of fans,"Lee Berke, president and CEO of LHB Sports Entertainment & Media, said in aninterview. "The opportunity here is to generate the next generation of NFLfans by offering up primetime on this powerful social media platform."

Before the deal was announced, Facebook Inc., VerizonCommunications Inc. and Amazon.comInc. were rumored to be among the other companies looking to score adeal with the NFL for the Thursday night rights.

There are also a number of international games the NFL has yetto sell. Yahoo! Inc. wonthe rights to broadcastan October 2015 international game in London. But the league has yet to announcewhat it plans to do with the upcoming season's international games.

"The question is: 'How are they going to handle those internationalgames?'" Berke said, adding that he expects other announcements are coming.

Why the NFL opted to partner with Twitter instead of anothernew media company is a subject of debate. Facebook, for example, was considereda strong competitor for the deal but, according to reports, ultimately withdrewfrom talks a week before the Twitter announcement. In fact, a day after the NFLannounced the deal with Twitter, Facebook made its own announcement regarding Facebook Live, the social media platform'slive streaming service. The service received several enhancements, including a mobilehub to view current live streaming videos and a global map on desktop to visualizecurrent streams.

Analysts also considered Amazon as a strong contender. Wolk,however, said that the NFL might have wanted a more global focus instead of Amazon'slargely domestic viewership.

Though the terms of the deal weren't announced, Bloombergand Re/codecited anonymous sources who said the deal cost the social media company around $10million for 10 games. By comparison,CBS and NBC paid $450 million on average per season to air 10 Thursday night games— roughly $45 million per game — over the next two years.

While Twitter is seemingly inking the rights for a deal at $1million a game, analysts noted that a vast majority of each game's ad inventorywill go to either CBS or NBC.

"Twitter doesn't stand to make a ton of money off this,"Wolk said.

Nevertheless, Twitter's COO Adam Bain remained bullish on theadvertising prospects from the partnership.

"[The] New Thursday Night Football deal is great for ourMarketers, as Twitter controls some of games' ad inventory. Can't wait to bringto market!" Bain tweeted duringhis announcement of the deal.

Twitter's stock has hovered at an all-time low in recent months.The shares closed at $17.48 a share on April 6, down from a 52-week high of $53.49in April 8, 2015. The company rolled out severalproducts to drive growthbut have yet to offer up meaningful numbers.

Despite the lack of user growth, the microblogging platform postedstrong net operating revenue numbers. The company reported $710.5 million in netoperating revenue for the 2015 fourth quarter, marking a 48.3% year-over-year changefrom the same quarter in 2014. The annual 2015 net operating revenue for the companywas $2.22 billion, marking a 58.1% increase from 2014.

"Twitter is going to want to show increased usership,"Bevilacqua said. "They're going to want to acquire more full-time users andwant to demonstrate that they can get people to come here and spend more time ontheir platform. Those are easy things to measure, and they'll know whether thosethings worked or not."

Though the deal puts Twitter in the spotlight and serves as aquick boost to the company's profile, Wolk said it likely is not a solution to thecompany's user growth issues.

"It means they'll get a bunch of publicity and they'll geta bunch of people signing up. But whether those people will become active usersafter that few months of NFL, I'm skeptical about that," he said. "Theplatform itself hasn't changed in any way that could keep them there."

Several analysts agreed that Twitter needs to do more than justrebroadcast the NFL games. Wolk, for example, noted that the social media platformwill likely have to figure out a way to integrate tweets into the broadcast, addingthat there's little real estate on mobile and tablet screens.

Still, many analysts cited the deal's importance in that it opensthe doors for sports broadcasting to expand beyond traditional broadcasts.

Jay Samit, CEO of multiscreen services provider SeaChange International,for one, said this further solidifies his belief that tying up sports rights withtraditional networks "is going to disappear as the second screen becomes theprimary way that most people consume video and therefore content."