Twitter is in a social media platform battle, but recently made a push to the top. This past April, Twitter beat out the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Yahoo! Inc. for the rights to live-stream National Football League games for free on Thursday nights. The live stream will reach over 800 Million worldwide on the Twitter platform for mobile phones, tablets, PCs, and connected TVs. The deal included Twitter paying $10 million to stream 10 games and to sell only part of the ad inventory exclusively. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke about the deal saying, “...in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season. This agreement also provides additional reach for those brands advertising with our broadcast partners”. This deal secures that the NFL is viewed on broadcast (NBC and CBS), cable (NFL Network) and digital (Twitter). The NFL gives fans plenty of opportunity to tune into a football game with the NFL Network, DirecTV, and NFL Red Zone, and now Twitter as another option.
The NFL has experience with live-streaming, as they streamed games previously in London through Yahoo!, so this was a no brainer for Twitter. Last year’s game in London streamed over 480 million minutes of the game, with 33% of viewers outside of the US – spread across 185 countries. According to the Nielsen Company, the NFL reached 78% of all television homes and 67% of potential viewers in the US, totaling 199 million people. Twitter clearly saw an opportunity to attract advertisers, but before Twitter starts celebrating they need to start selling.
Already dishing out $10 million for this lucrative package, Twitter has begun selling packaged advertising deals. Aiming to sell 10 to 15 packages that range from $2 million and $8 million per advertiser, Twitter has already struck deals with Ford, Nestle, and Anheuser-Busch. The packages will include a variety of different ads with in-game ads, pre-roll ads, or Periscope streams. The in-game ads will be limited as Twitter is designated to only local ad spots while the NFL, CBS, and NBC will sell all the national TV spots. Pre-roll ads will include highlight videos during the week prior to all NFL games. And Periscope streams consist of pregame analysis and player footage from the field before the Thursday Night games. This will be the first time Twitter has allowed advertisers to sponsor these broadcasts, and add branding while monetizing an actual Periscope stream. The price range for advertisers will vary, but clearly will not be cheap as Twitter has to make up for the $10 million investment, as well as distribute partial revenue they make from advertisers to the NFL. This should not be an issue for Twitter as the NFL has a huge fan base and popularity worldwide.
After falling behind to Facebook and the recent surge with Snapchat, Twitter seems to be changing their direction and becoming more of a mainstream internet destination. Since April, Twitter has also signed live-streaming deals with Wimbledon, the NBA, the MLB, and Pac-12 Networks. The live-streaming is a great way to attract advertisers as sports are becoming the most widely watched live TV with viewers having Netflix, DVR, and other devices for TV shows at their disposal. As Facebook and Snapchat are slowly getting into live-streaming for sports and entertainment, Twitter has the clear cut advantage now with the NFL leading the way.
The first real test for Twitter will be on September 15th: the first Thursday Night Game of the season. This will allow Twitter to evaluate if their aggressive move towards live-streaming has paid off or not. Either way, it was a move Twitter had to make to stay competitive in the social media game.