Twitter to Live-Stream ‘Thursday Night Football’ for First Time

Twitter won a bidding war to live-stream NFL games in a $10 million deal inked in April. Now, this Thursday, the social media company will stream the first such match-up of the 10-game deal, seen as an effort by chief executive Jack Dorsey to revive the company’s dwindling support from advertisers. Viewers can watch the live CBS feed on Twitter’s mobile app and website, with the added value of in-the-moment tweets. Bank of America and Budweiser are two companies that will also stream commercials during the game.

The Wall Street Journal notes that it is “a tough sell” requiring “time and strong execution” to succeed at both attracting the bigger budgets associated with video advertising and becoming a “prime destination to watch live events.”

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Twitter has had eight straight periods of declining growth and shares have dropped “about 31 percent since last October,” when Dorsey became permanent chief executive. These woes have led some to conclude that Twitter is a “takeover target,” as it has “struggled to evolve from its roots as a 140-character messaging service.”

Facebook and Snapchat have already embraced digital video, but Dorsey is “betting there are enough dollars to go around as consumers increasingly cut the cable-TV cord.” An estimate from eMarketer says the Web video ad market is growing 28 percent to $9.8 billion in 2016. With regard to content, Twitter has already signed streaming deals with the MLB, NBA and NHL, and streamed the Democratic and Republication National Conventions among other programming.

But this Thursday’s NFL game is the company’s “first time selling ads for live sports video.” WSJ reports that, “ad packages for all 10 games range from $1 million to $8 million,” with $5 million buying “two commercials per game as well as sponsorship around dozens of video clips of coverage per week.”

Advertisers include Anheuser-Busch, Verizon, Sony, Ford and Nestlé. With the terms of the deal, Twitter gets “about 15 in-game local ad spots per game, as well as ads shown ahead of NFL highlights and sponsored broadcasts” on its live-streaming app Periscope.

Although “most of Twitter’s over 300 million users” will likely watch the game on their phones, user feedback elicited by Twitter president Adam Bain has thus far been mainly positive about the experience. Twitter is also working on a deal to bring its live-streaming to Apple TV, although neither company would comment.

Twitter VP Matt Derella, who is in charge of selling the NFL packages, notes that, “one advantage for advertisers with Twitter over television is the ability to target specific users,” such as pitching different Ford vehicles to different viewers. He notes also that, “the user experience will change as Twitter learns more about how users are watching the broadcasts and interacting with the accompanying tweets.”

Related:
How to Watch the Jets-Bills ‘Thursday Night Football’ Game on Twitter, CBS Sports, 9/14/16