On Thursday 15th September, Twitter live-streamed its first ever NFL game around the world.
The deal with the NFL marks a concerted push into live video for the social network, which is banking on its real-time nature to turn it from a communal soundtrack to event TV into a destination for event TV that audiences will use and advertisers will pay to appear on.
Since its NFL deal was announced, Twitter has already signed up deals with Bloomberg, Cheddar, NBA and more to boost its video line-up. The NFL matches, though, are at the centre of its streaming focus, with the live stream available on Twitter’s website at TNF.Twitter.com, as well as newly updated apps for mobile devices, Apple TV, Fire TV devices and Xbox One consoles.
So, was it a success?
Figures obtained by Variety note that Twitter racked up 2.1 million unique viewers to watch the New York Jets play the Buffalo Bills – a game that was won 37 to 31. That figure, though, isn’t much use to anyone – the CNS and NFL Network had 15.4 million TV viewers, according to Nielsen, a figure that is inevitably higher but also is far from like-for-like. A more revealing statistic is that 243,000 people tuned in on average per minute via Twitter, watching 22 minutes of the game.
Combined worldwide, including the pre-game and post-game shows, Twitter reached 2.3 million viewers worldwide, with viewers streaming for a minimum of three seconds with the video 100 per cent in view. The total digital audience across Twitter, NFL Mobile from Verizon, Watch NFL Network, NFL Game Pass and CBS Digital was 314,000 per minute, with each viewer watching an average of 25 minutes.
A more direct comparison is possible with NBC’s streaming of the season opener on Thursday 8th September (Carolina Panthers versus the Denver Broncos), which had 1.2 million unique users and an average 278,000 users per minute, across NBC Sports, NBCSports.com, NBC.com and NFL Mobile from Verizon. The game, which marked a rematch of the Super Bowl 50 teams, saw 61.8 million minutes streamed in total, a record for the the highest-trafficked non-Olympic, non-Super Bowl live-stream for NBC Sports Digital.
The Twitter live-stream also follows similar move from Yahoo last year, which streamed the Bills versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in October, the first time an NFL game was available for free worldwide. That saw 15.2 million unique users worldwide with more than 460 million streaming minutes and 2.36 million people on average per minute – although this was not broadcast in the USA and Yahoo also auto-played the video to users, which will inflate its numbers considerably.
Twitter’s figures, then, stack up fairly well, although part of Twitter’s main sell is that it allows people to combine streaming and tweeting. On that measure, arguably the most important to demonstrate Twitter’s USP as a video platform, Thursday’s game generated 255,000 related tweets, 38 per cent down on the 411,000 for last week’s Panthers-Broncos game, according to analytics firm Quid. With nine more Thursdays on the cards for Twitter, the coming months will be the real test of whether Twitter can live up to its ambition.