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How Twitter’s New NFL Streaming Partnership Could Change the Entertainment Game

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This week, Twitter secured the rights to stream Thursday Night Football games in a partnership with the NFL. The deal gives Twitter the ability to stream 10 live games for free directly to its users. It’s a huge coup for Twitter, and sees the company go from a more bystander role in the sports and entertainment space – as a ‘second screen’ live commentary social network – to center stage as the first major social network to also become a major live broadcaster.

In efforts over the past year to grow monthly active users – the latest being Twitter’s timeline algorithm update – this most recent update to the platform could make a very big, and very immediate impact. As a social platform that’s best suited to facilitate real-time conversation around live events – specifically entertainment events with built-in fan bases – Twitter is tapping into the natural behaviors of NFL fans to provide a clear incentive to bypass paid options to get their football fix.

The NFL anticipates reaching 800 million users this upcoming season. The partnership will allow the platform to integrate the most popular U.S. sport into its social experience, while tailoring its utility to the viewing experience.

Although the partnership is experimental for both parties, successful results could see a dramatic shift in the way marketers view the platform. A resulting influx of new and/or lapsed users could potentially generate a series of new ad opportunities and more effective ways of engaging users around ‘live-culture’ passion points.

‘Live’ has been a significant trend across social media and if the NFL partnership proves successful, Twitter could reaffirm its position as the go-to platform for significant Live Cultural Moments. Twitter would then become a destination for users to not only talk about culturally significant events in real-time, but to watch them unfold live as well. The second-screen trend might easily merge back into one, and Twitter could see the growth it’s been seeking.

Additionally, this partnership could end up shifting the way consumers view and engage with live entertainment, and could ultimately redefine the way social platforms value monthly active users. As a broadcaster, Twitter leans into a traditional TV model by providing value to a significant number of users in programmed pulses rather than through an always-on feed of content. Consumer adoption would force advertisers to adapt their ad products to the evolved consumer behavior.

It’s too early to tell how this partnership will be received, the extent of its effect on the sports and entertainment industry, and how it could play out for Twitter. In preparation of the potential changes and updates to the platform though, marketers should consider three questions:

  1. How can they leverage Twitter as a distribution channel to extend reach and attract viewers to major shows?
  2. How can they integrate social activations directly into the viewing experience?
  3. How should they allocate media dollars in order to reach the right people, at the right time, with content that is meaningful and relevant to live events?

Advertisers should pay close attention to the way Twitter incorporates the NFL live streaming integration on its platform. If it is well received by users, it is likely that marketers will see the development of new ad products that give them the ability to reach even more people, and better target audiences. Marketers are also likely to see new consumer viewing behaviors, for which sports and entertainment brands in particular, should be cognizant of, and should monitor and adapt strategies accordingly on the platform.

Cover photo via Adweek.