Twitter beat out other contenders to reach a deal with the National Football League to stream Thursday Night Football games, a fresh effort by the struggling social media company to increase engagement and advertising revenue as growth among users has slowed.
Twitter reportedly paid less than $10 million for the 10-game package. Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal. Twitter’s investor relations’ Twitter account says the company included the expense in 2016 guidance for investors.
Twitter controls some of the advertising inventory for the games, Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain said in a tweet. The deal “continues our strategy to build world’s best daily connected audience that watches together and can talk with one another in real-time,” he wrote.
Twitter has more than 300 million users, among them pop stars, Hollywood glitterati and world leaders. But it’s far smaller than other social media services — it’s one-fifth the size of Facebook and smaller even than Facebook-owned photo-sharing service Instagram.
Revenue is growing quickly, but not as quickly as it used to, and analysts expect that trend to continue. Research firm eMarketer recently slashed forecasts for the 10-year-old company, saying it now expects Twitter to generate $2.61 billion in global advertising revenue in 2016, down from the $2.95 billion it predicted in October of 2015, as Twitter struggles to compete with market leaders Google and Facebook.
Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said the NFL deal is “a way for Twitter to attract and engage Twitter and Periscope users, and generate advertising revenues.”
In a statement released Tuesday, the NFL says the streams will be free, and won’t require viewers to authenticate through a cable subscription to watch. The NFL is trying to cross the generational divide to reach younger fans and other households who don’t own televisions and mostly watch sports on the Internet while boosting revenue by selling streaming rights to games separately.
The NFL has streamed individual games, but this marks the first season streaming deal. CBS and NBC pay $450 million for the rights to broadcast the Thursday night games. Verizon has the mobile rights.
“Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement.
According to Bloomberg, which first reported the deal, Twitter was competing with big names in tech, including Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo, which streamed last year’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars in London.
As part of the deal, Twitter will host in-game highlights from the Thursday night games as well as pre-game broadcast through Twitter’s live streaming app Periscope.
“People watch NFL games with Twitter today,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement. “Now they’ll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights.”
Twitter has worked with the NFL since 2013, partnering on the social network’s Amplify program, where the NFL can capture key moments from games and quickly share them on Twitter. Last year, the NFL reached a multi-year deal with Twitter to include more content, including archival video, game recaps and top plays.
This isn’t the first time the NFL has experimented with unique approaches to delivering highlights or other football content to fans. Last year, the league partnered with Snapchat to let users participate in a global Live Story, sharing their experiences from NFL stadiums.
Source Cowan: USA Today