You’ve seen the headlines: Twitter wins bid to stream NFL Thursday Night Football. Twitter has secured the rights to globally stream 10 regular season Thursday night games. OTT distribution is the third leg in what the NFL calls its “Tri-Cast” strategy. The games will also be delivered over broadcast (split between CBS and NBC,) and on cable through NFL Network.
I’ll admit it. My immediate reaction was that the zombie apocalypse had arrived. Football would no longer bring people together around the TV, replaced instead by a dystopian vision of millions of Millennials mindlessly cheering and jeering at their phones.
However, it is also evident that Periscope could open up an entire world of new simulcast experiences, and help drive 2nd screen viewing into the mainstream.
Traditionally, the big game has meant big sales for big screens. In 2014, a FatWallet.com study found that “32 percent of consumers who plan to buy a TV in 2014 will do so during Super Bowl sales promotions.” While the Twitter/NFL deal won’t impact the Super Bowl, it illustrates how football has always been a shared experience. One that sees friends and family gathered around the big shiny flat panel to cheer on their team together.
— Roger Goodell (@nflcommish) April 5, 2016
Twitter’s deal alters that paradigm, providing “free, live streaming video of Thursday Night Football without authentication to the over 800 Million registered and non-registered users worldwide on the Twitter platform on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.”
Two things stand out from this statement:
Non-registered users. It is hoped this deal will drive viewing to those that do not subscribe to cable or do not have access to a local broadcast, and open up viewing from international markets. Clearly, it is in nobody’s interest to limit viewership to “only 800 million” current Twitter users. Expect a heavy push to boost Twitter’s presence in general, and in streaming media delivery specifically.
Connected TVs. Admittedly, my last experience with Twitter on the TV was in the early iteration of the XBOX 360, and it was not very good. Hopefully, this will be an opportunity for Twitter to significantly improve the connected TV experience.
Periscope brings true value to 2nd screen viewing
Second screening is very much on NFL commissioner Goodell’s mind:
There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season.”
Second screening is already very common, with nearly a third of consumers using social media to vote, post, share or comment about something on TV. Combining live NFL streaming and social media will help keep people engaged with the content within the app.
However, Twitter’s real ace in this deal could be delivered by the company’s live streaming platform Periscope. Imagine live Periscope streams of team warm-ups, locker room celebrations, pre-game pep talks, and other player preparations normally too niche for a broadcaster to carry. This is where mainstream fans can most easily embrace Twitter’s investment – gathered around the TV with smartphone in-hand, connecting with favorite players and game moments.
Is the Twitter / NFL a dystopian vision or enhanced viewing experience? We’re five months from finding out.