Twitter tackles live-streaming with the NFL4/20/2016
Tech has a unique way of sharing a glimpse of the future before a device, software or service comes to the market — ideas that somehow miraculously develop into non-fiction innovations. Star Trek alone had the precognition to foresee tablets, on-call limitless entertainment, mobile translators and needleless syringes, a.k.a. Hypospray. As exciting as these flashes of tomorrow can be, the truly great ones are those that go by with little notice. The most recent example of the future passing us without a stir is the National Football League’s plans to stream live games on Twitter.
The NFL is the biggest entertainment entity in the country. From August to February, hundreds of millions of football fans tune in to broadcasts of the league’s gladiatorial action. It doesn’t matter if it’s the best or worst teams competing, or if the game is available for free on broadcast or behind a cable paywall, fans will watch. So it seemed only natural that the NFL would eventually make its way into the streaming world. After a mediocre test run with Yahoo last fall, the NFL has made a huge commitment to the Internet by partnering with Twitter.
At the bargain basement steal of $15 million, Twitter will stream all 10 of the league’s 2016 Thursday night games. While not the marquee competitions of the week, paying $1.5 million per game is absurd when you consider CBS, ABC, and NBC have paid billions to showcase the sport. Of course, there are multiple reasons for the clearance pricing. Twitter won’t be inserting any of its own advertisements into the stream or commanding the broadcasts, but simply retransmitting the league’s broadcast partner’s product. Also, if Yahoo is any indication, sports streaming may be too young to really attract an audience. Only 15 million viewers tuned into Yahoo’s stream last year, a paltry number when compared to the more than 50 million viewers a game normally attracts on TV.
But Yahoo is not Twitter. While Yahoo’s web traffic is impressive, practically no one goes to it expecting live-streaming media. Twitter is ground zero for live media discussions and literally invented the concept of “trending topics.” While streaming media is relatively new to the platform, after a year of owning Periscope, live-streaming has become one of Twitter’s strongest assets. More than Periscope, this first foray into live re-transmitting of another entity’s program takes away all the concerns of managing a major broadcast while acquiring a new public perception as a major player in media delivery.
Will this move ultimately end up in Twitter becoming Netflix or Hulu? Probably not. But it could signal a completely new manner of consuming and discussing media. If Twitter users and football fans embrace this opportunity to its full potential by watching, discussing and sharing NFL games in real time, the entire world of live broadcasting could be refashioned. Imagine having the news, primetime and reality television broadcasting live in your Twitter stream. Tweeting, sharing and viewer engagement could skyrocket to levels never before seen.
Before Twitter cracks the champagne, though, there is one concern. With its user numbers falling and revenue growth slowing, if the NFL doesn’t usher in a new era of Twitter relevance, it is likely nothing will. Still, if Twitter can’t make it work, just know that sports streaming is most certainly the future. Mobile video is the fastest growing tech sector and is far above anything except messaging. With that in mind, combining a major player in mobile messaging with the No. 1 live video commodity available is a surefire touchdown. CV
Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.