America’s NFL is to live stream weekly football games on Twitter each Thursday in a landmark deal that shows how sports content is moving away from traditional broadcasters and using new channels.
Ten games from the NFL’s regular season will be broadcast on Twitter, as well as in-game highlights and live pre-game interviews on its streaming platform, Periscope.
The games will be available to people Twitter counts as users even if they are not registered, meaning a potential audience of 800 million.
Verizon will also retain the US mobile rights to stream all 16 games following a deal in 2010.
The move comes as a surprise, with many expecting Amazon to win the deal as it has form for buying TV rights: it paid a rumoured £160million for former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Facebook, which also seems a more likely buyer given its recent focus on live video, reportedly dropped out of the bidding last week.
Last year, Yahoo paid $20m to show the first NFL game of the season live online. However, US tech site Recode has reported that the new deal is worth under $10m (£7.1m), with Twitter winning despite larger rivals bidding as much as $15m.
Matt Littunen of Enders Analysis told The Guardian that “Twitter’s comparatively smaller size, with about 320 million active users worldwide, may have made it a more appealing partner for the NFL than larger digital companies vying for the rights”.
“There’s strong evidence that TV content owners have been reticent to partner with bigger online platform,” he said. “In this Twitter’s size may actually be an advantage. The bidding price might well be indicative of preference for medium sized partners.”
Twitter’s reach outside the US will also have been a draw. The NFL has been pushing into markets outside the US in recent years, staging two games a year at London’s Wembley stadium with the aim of starting a franchise in the UK.
But what does this mean for sport here in Europe? Dror Ginzberg, Co-Founder & CEO of Wochit explains: “The agreement between the NFL and Twitter is a landmark moment for traditional broadcasters around the world. Despite the NFL being the most popular sport in America and TV ad during the Super Bowl costing a record $5 million for thirty seconds of airtime, the NFL has decided to take this bold and unprecedented step to stream games live online.”
“The NFL dipped its toe into online streaming last year with Yahoo screening one game last season, which successfully yielded 15.2 million viewers and 33.6 million video streams. Clearly this was a test case for a much larger roll out and builds upon a previous deal reached between the two last year to include more content online.”
“The agreement points to an increasing trend of sports rights being diversified and how people can view this content across platforms, especially in America. Yahoo Sports also announced this week that it will stream daily a baseball game, to build upon its existing deals to stream basketball, ice hockey and golf.”
“The big question is not if European sports will follow suit, but when. The English Premier League will be looking enviously at the NFL’s deal and seeking to follow this example, especially as adults in the UK watch more than five hours of video per day, making video the single most popular media activity online.”