As the 97th season of the National Football League kicked off on Thursday, September 8th, fans everywhere were glued to last year’s Super Bowl rematch between the Carolina Panthers and and the defending champions Denver Broncos. However, the eyes of marketers will be fixed on the September 15th tilt between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Here’s why: this will be the first ever NFL game to be streamed live on Twitter.
Twitter was chosen over various other platforms, as it paid the NFL $10 million to stream ten Thursday night games. At $1 million per game, Twitter is paying a fraction of what the television networks fork over. This isn’t the first time an NFL game will be streamed online. Last year, Yahoo paid $17 million to stream just one game — an October contest between the Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars that took place in London, England. For that contest, there were 33.6 million worldwide streams totaling 460 million total minutes of viewing and Twitter hopes to see that type of success as well.
Why Twitter? Why so comparably cheap? Twitter’s bid was chosen over other heavyweights such as Verizon, Yahoo and Amazon. The main reason is the massive amount of engagement that happens on the platform courtesy of Twitter’s 300+ million monthly active users. “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,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “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 insure 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.”
What could this possibly mean to marketers? A lot! According to the Nielsen’s 2015 “Year in Sports Media” report, 93% of the top 100 live TV programs were sports related. Thursday night games have averaged a 7.9 HH rating and 13 million viewers, up 60% from only two years ago. The audience numbers are strong, and a large portion are watching the game live. In addition, according to an Accenture report, 87% of consumers use more than one device at one time. People can’t wait to post a status about how awful their fantasy team is doing (most likely me) or read what celebrities are tweeting in awe of Odell Beckham Jr’s next amazing catch. This is where Twitter is hoping to capitalize on its great engagement-driven platform, as well as capitalizing on users are who are already entrenched into what they are watching.
How can your client get involved? Twitter is providing three different ways to reach out to consumers;
- In-game ads. Twitter has a very limited number of commercial spots it can sell during the actual game. The NFL and its existing TV partners will sell all of the game’s national TV segments. That leaves Twitter to sell the local ad spots and the company says it will be able to show different spots to different users based on its targeting data.
- Pre-roll ads. Twitter will also sell pre-roll video ads ahead of NFL highlights for all NFL games, not just the Thursday night games — a batch of highlights it sold last year as well. The NFL is giving Twitter 90 highlights per week in 2016, up from 75 in 2015.
- Periscope streams. The NFL will use Twitter’s livestreaming Periscope service to broadcast pregame analysis and player footage from the field before each of the 10 Thursday Night games. Twitter will let advertisers pay to sponsor these broadcasts and add branding to the video feed. It will be the first time Twitter has ever monetized an actual Periscope stream.
Advertisers are paying anywhere from $2 million to $8 million for ad packages, depending on the number of ads they run and whether or not they are shown during games or alongside other NFL content. Twitter is hoping to bring in over $50 million in revenue, however some of that will have to go back to the NFL. The Shield always wins!
Will this be a success? Well, as most new digital innovations go, we will have to wait and see. One major roadblock will be convincing users to watch their livestream and their tweets and not the actual broadcast of the game on their 60-inch flat screen TV. Twitter is where people go to engage with others when big moments happen but will it be able to keep audiences long enough to turn itself into a mainstream internet destination? Marketers are anxiously waiting for the answer.