Twitter wins the rights to stream NFL's Thursday Night games

Steven Loeb · April 5, 2016 · Short URL:

The company won out over other suitors that included Amazon, Verizon and Facebook

Updated with additional information about Twitter's bid, and revenue share

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When it comes to video streaming, the NFL seems to be the gold standards. At least if the number of companies that were apparently vying for those rights is any indication.

Now we finally have a winner, and it could be a game changer.

On Tuesday, the NFL revealed that it has entered into a streaming partnership with Twitter to stream the 10 Thursday Night Football games that are broadcast by NBC and CBS. The games will will also be simulcast on NFL Network, giving the league what it calls a “Tri-Cast” distribution model, meaning broadcast, cable and now digital as well.

In addition to live streaming video, the partnership also includes in-game highlights, and pre-game Periscope broadcasts from players and teams.

There were various big media companies that were also in the running for the right to stream these games, including Yahoo, Amazon and Verizon. Facebook was also said to be interested, but dropped its bid earlier this week. 

So why Twitter? It probably helped that the two companies already have a preexisting relationship. The two entities had already partnered up a few years ago, in 2013, through the Twitter Amplify program, its video advertising product that it had launched for media companies and consumer brand.

Late last year they signed an extension of that deal, which included more content then before, including in-game highlights from pre-season through the Super Bowl, as well as breaking news and analysis, best plays, custom game recaps, fun infographics, behind-the-scenes content, and archival video.

"The use case of people on Twitter during sporting events is something that has been happening on the platform for years, so that's not a behavior where they have to train people. It's something they already do," a source familiar with Twitter told me.

"There are over 800 million people who are logged in and logged out, and a whole host of people who see Tweets on a monthy basis so the reach is there. The company is also looking at syndication partners, so the flexability of Twitter, in addition to its reach, is what made it a competative bid."

Twitter was actually outbid by its rivals. According to Re/Code, it is paying less than $10 million for the entire package, while others had bid over $15 million. There's no indication as to why the NFL would accept a lower amount, except that, again, it knows what its getting when it gets in bed with Twitter.

The source has confirmed that the Re/Code report is accurate.

VatorNews has reached out to Twitter and to the NFL to officially confirm these figures. We will update this story if we learn more. 

For Twitter, of course, this could be a really big deal. The company has struggled with growing its user-base, and giving fans a way to stream their games will likely bring at least some Twitter-skeptics onto the platform.

The NFL ran its first experiment with live streaming a game online last season. In October, Yahoo hosted what the first free, global live stream of a regular season NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills in London’s Wembley Stadium.

The company saw 33.6 million streams of the game and over 15.2 million unique viewers. And a third of those streams came in internationally, across 185 countries around the world.

While the numbers weren't up to television levels, NFL games saw an average viewership of 19.2 million on the big broadcast networks in 2014, that number came that close was pretty impressive, especially considering that relatively fewer people likely knew about the option to stream it. On Twitter the games will be be more heavily promoted.

Twitter, for the most part, will not be making much revenue from this deal. It will be simulcasting the games that air lived on NBC and CBS, who hav paid hundreds of millions to broadcast them live. 

"On average there are 70 ads on TV during NFL football game, and roughly 50 of those ads will be exactly the same on the Twitter livestream. The other 15 to 20 are what Twitter will make revenue from," my source said.

“Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. 

“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. This agreement also provides additional reach for those brands advertising with our broadcast partners.” 

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.