Twitter Snatches Thursday Night Football Streaming Rights

Apr 6, 2016  |  by Andrew Ryback

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If you follow Broadcast Management Group on social media or read our blog (its really good, I promise!), you’ll know that we’ve been following the changing landscape of broadcast television very closely.  We do so for a few reasons.  First, because it continues to be a fascinating journey.  Seeing the dynamics of broadcast television change before our eyes – in a relatively short amount of time – has been fun to watch.  Second, as a live video production company, we’ve seen this transition have an impact on our business.  We’ve seen an increased demand for producing content live to the web – not live to network television.  Instead of booking satellite trucks, we’re working to secure dedicated internet drops and bringing in web encoders.  As the industry changes, we’ve had to adapt and change with it.  But the industry isn’t done changing.  This is evident by Twitter’s recent acquisition of the streaming rights for ‘Thursday Night Football.’

Several months back, I blogged about the changing demographics of television and my own personal ‘cord cutting’ experience.  After ditching DirecTV for AppleTV, the one thing I was always frustrated with was the lack of live sports options.  I found some work-arounds, but networks were pretty good at keeping broadcast rights under lock-and-key.  Fortunately, it looks like momentum is about to swing the other way.

In some sort of crazy, come-from-behind victory, Twitter managed to snag the global streaming rights for Thursday Night Football (TNF) this Fall.  The little blue bird managed to beat out heavy hitters like Amazon, Verizon and Facebook (Facebook expressed an interest in the TNF streaming rights earlier, but announced last week they were backing down).  Under the new deal, Twitter will be able to live stream 10 of 16 games this coming season – the remaining 6 are already committed to NFL Network.  Twitter will be re-broadcasting CBS and NBC’s feeds and will only have the rights to sell a small amount of ad spots.  Which means the NFL has basically figured out a way to sell the exact same thing to multiple sources.  Very sneaky, Roger.

What’s really interesting though is that Twitter was NOT the highest bidder.  They will (allegedly) end up paying a meager $10M for all 10 games (sources say rival bids reached $15M).  That’s a pretty low price tag when you consider that Yahoo paid $17M for the rights to ONE GAME between the Bill and Jaguars last season.  And comparatively, NBC and CBS have paid a combined $450M for the broadcast rights for TNF.  But Roger Goodell and Co. felt that Twitter could provide a global reach that other bidders could not.  While some reports claim Twitter’s growth has slowed, the company claims to have an active user base of 320 million people, but a reach of 800 million (this includes people visiting Twitter properties, but who aren’t logged into the service).  With the NFL continuing to expand the number of games played abroad this year, it’s obvious they want to extend their audience beyond the US boarder.  Partnering with Twitter just might help with that push.

Sure, this isn’t the “be all, end all” solution for football fans who don’t have a cable subscription, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Thursday Night Football does not traditionally feature marquee matchups, but the NFL’s partnership with Twitter is another step towards digital distribution.  It also helps the NFL reach new, untapped audiences who may have never been able to watch an NFL game otherwise.  The NFL considered their deal with Yahoo last year to be a “test” for digital streaming.  If that’s the case, I’m not quite sure what the Twitter deal would be, maybe an experiment?, but regardless, it’s an exciting development for all parties and NFL fans.

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