With the rising popularity of internet streaming, television networks are feeling the heat and looking for new ways to salvage some of that lost revenue. Nowhere else is it more apparent than with sports broadcasting networks. ESPN is experiencing a substantial scaling back of its growth strategy. Moreover, premium subscription channels like NFL Network are also feeling the pressure that digital streaming has placed on the television business.
It’s hard to make a commitment to pay a monthly subscription for something that you can stream online, with little risk of legal recourse. It seems that the NFL may have finally realized that fact. Bloomberg reported April 5 that Twitter – yes, Twitter – just inked a $10 million deal that would give it the exclusive streaming rights to 10 Thursday night National Football League games during the 2016 season. Which means the anti-cable football junky will still be able to get their Thursday night gridiron fix.
“This is one element of a much broader strategy to provide the next generation of real-time content,” Twitter Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto told Bloomberg. Noto joined Twitter in 2014 after working as the NFL’s CFO until 2010. It’s not hard to see just how lucrative Noto’s presence at Twitter has been thus far. In 2014, Noto helped secure an agreement to distribute exclusive NFL highlights via Twitter’s extensive, far-reaching social network.
The decision to grant the streaming rights to Twitter, however, was not based on them being the highest bidder. Rather, it was a decision based on what bidder already had the right infrastructure to host such a digital product. NFL Executive Vice President of Media Brian Rolapp said, “The platform is built around live events already. We want to see how they use the unique platform, and syndicated tweets all over the Internet is going to be interesting.” Verizon, Yahoo! and Amazon all joined Twitter in a bid for the streaming rights.
One would think Noto’s history with the NFL surely had something to do with that decision.
The deal, however, is extremely lucrative to Twitter’s strategy to move beyond its reputation for celebrity, business and political networking. The social network – which has been lauded and detested (depending on who you ask) for its revolutionary effect on the world as we know it – is looking to create more opportunities for connection between its users. Thursday night football games attracted an average of $17 million viewers last season, giving Twitter an enormous opportunity to develop a platform that engages both new and existing users alike.