Twitter will be live streaming 10 Thursday night NFL games during the 2016 season.

Here are some thoughts on the deal and what it means for both parties.

What will the UX look like?

Will the NFL stream be tucked away in Moments, where event highlights have traditionally lived?

The term 'moment' seems to do little justice to extended content like this.

Will the stream be heavily promoted in timelines or live in a version of the homepage 'sports' tab?

Some have pointed out that a live stream makes it difficult for users to utilise other Twitter functionality. If I'm watching the game on my phone's Twitter app, how do I tweet about the action?

What will the user uplift look like?

Twitter will no doubt be hoping that 10 NFL games is enough to tempt some new users to the platform.

The increasing tide of so-called 'cord cutters', those who no longer want a cable subscription, may provide Twitter with some new users.

In 2013, TV subscribers fell for the first time, by 250,000 households, and numbers are expected to drop to 95m in 2017, from a peak of 101m in 2011.

It may seem fanciful that there will be NFL fans who don't have a TV subscription, but Twitter may also benefit from the 'cord nevers' - younger users who perhaps already use Twitter but will be drawn back to the platform for intriguing content.

Additionally, there's always the chance that avid/younger fans will be multiscreening, aware of Twitter's closer ties with the NFL and keen to discuss the game here instead of, say, Facebook.

Mobile users may also choose to watch via Twitter, rather than an over-the-top (OTT) service from CBS or NBC.

Is Periscope set for a battle with Facebook Live?

One of the most interesting areas of social media (and broadcasting as a whole) is the emerging role of live streaming, with Facebook Live reportedly an obsession of Mark Zuckerberg's. 

Twitter's own Periscope is set to bring exclusive pre-game content on Thursday nights, including from NFL players (in the tradition of locker room footage that's unique to American sports).

With Facebook one of the failed bidders for the 10 game package, it will be fascinating to see if this represents some territory gained for Twitter in a forthcoming live streaming battle.

How much is the deal worth in advertising revenue?

The deal was reportedly cheap ($10m) in comparison to the broadcast and streaming rights jointly owned by NBC and CBS (and certainly when compared to Yahoo's $20m purchase of one game's rights in 2015).

Advertising will be limited on Twitter (in the live stream) compared to the TV networks, and of course the audience will be much smaller, too.

However, there's little doubt this deal adds some cachet to Twitter's advertising products (whether in the live stream or not) with such focus on the platform during these games.

Another interesting thing to note is that you reportedly won't have to be a Twitter registered user to watch the live streams. This opens up the potential audience and the potential advertising revenue.

Last year Twitter revamped its homepage to include featured content across a number of topics (including sports), and advertising could command a decent price here.

Embeds of the live stream will also be possible, extending Twitter's reach across the internet.

twitter homepage

What is the future of the NFL media landscape?

NBC and CBS already own the rights to these games and have their own OTT services (albeit paid).

The NFL thinks of this Twitter deal as additive because Twitter is targeting younger users and essentially a different audience.

However, what does this deal say about the networks' ability to capitalise on digital using a paid model?

Surely, this deal is the NFL hedging its bets, making sure it is prepared for what's to come in media consumption.

If Twitter is successful, the price of these live streaming rights will rise in two years time and Facebook will be interested once again (alongside Amazon, Verizon etc.).

However, if live streaming from a free platform were to become too successful, won't the exclusive network rights lose some value?

Making the most from this landscape is the enviable position the NFL finds itself in.

Ben Davis

Published 6 April, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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