Having lost ground to rivals like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, Twitter has been investing heavily in live streaming, and one of its markets of primary focus is sports.
One of its biggest sports deals to date, an agreement with the NFL to live stream ten Thursday night football games, has been live for the past two weeks. So how is Twitter doing?
In total, 2.1 million viewers tuned in to Twitter for its first live streamed NFL game on September 15, which saw the Buffalo Bills take on the New York Jets . During the live stream, Twitter averaged 243,000 concurrent viewers, with each viewer averaging 22 minutes of viewing time.
Twitter’s second live streamed game on September 22 saw a similar cumulative audience of 2.2 million, but the average number of concurrent viewers jumped by more than a third to 327,000. That might have been the result of the fact that the game featured the New England Patriots, one of the most popular NFL teams.
But Twitter’s numbers still pale in comparison to television, which delivered 15.4 million viewers on September 15 and 17.5 million viewers on September 22. Twitter’s viewership was also markedly lower than that seen by Yahoo when it live streamed an NFL game last year. Yahoo delivered an average of 2.36 million viewers, but it was able to stream a Sunday game, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison.
Experientially, Twitter users who have tweeted about the live streams by and large seemed pleased, but some have noted delays of approximately 30 seconds, meaning that tweets from fans watching the games on television could be spoilers.
Just the beginning
Because Twitter didn’t suffer any major hiccups, many observers believe the company’s efforts are off to a good start. Which isn’t surprising given that Twitter is relying on BAMTech to run its live sports streams. BAMTech has been powering live streams for Major League Baseball and numerous other sports leagues for years, so it has plenty of experience.
The real question is whether Twitter will be able to leverage its NFL initiative and grow a healthy business on the back of its live streams.
While some reports suggest that Twitter might generate more than $50 million from ads sold against its NFL streams, Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, which owns a large stake in BAMTech, told attendees at an investor conference that despite Twitter’s apparently good start, “nobody monetizes sports like ESPN.”
That might be true, but that isn’t stopping Twitter from trying to turn itself into a streaming power house. And not just in the world of sports. Case in point: today, it will be live streaming the first U.S. Presidential debate of 2016.
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