It's been a big week of announcements at ESPN. They announced — among other things — at their upfront in New York Tuesday that a soccer studio show would be added to the daily ESPN2 lineup. And word emerged via the Wall Street Journal on Monday that the Worldwide Leader will soon be expanding its collaboration with Twitter to include tweets with sports videos embedded.
Hira Ovide and Keach Hagey report that ESPN plans to show highlights of "soccer matches leading up to the World Cup, college football and the X Games" in the coming year.
The closer ties spotlight the symbiotic business needs of Twitter and the television industry. For the TV networks, Twitter tie-ins provide new ways to make money beyond 30-second TV commercials likely to be skipped or ignored. Entertainment executives talk about "engagement"—buzz and social-media comments around a show—nearly as often as they mention traditional TV ratings.
"We want to be able to push ESPN's…content wherever sports fans are," said Eric Johnson, ESPN's executive vice president of multimedia sales. "Twitter is a great opportunity for us to do that."
Credit ESPN for a proactive approach here. The four-letter network has sometimes been slow to embrace new media, and the editorial side has had some trouble understanding Twitter's importance, but the suits aren't messing around here. They know that the world is unfolding now via social media and that this is another way to keep cashing in while ensuring long-term survival.
Of course, anyone's free to embed YouTube content within tweets — Bleacher Report's been doing it for a while — but the difference here is that the video content ESPN will post will be rights-based, and it'll present a new source of advertising revenue.
The sports network plans to sell ads that will run inside the video clips, and marketing sponsors will commit to buying from Twitter a minimum value of "promoted" — or paid — Twitter posts to circulate their pitches.
In other words, everybody wins, including viewers who will now have even more highlights at their fingertips without having to own a television or stream illegally.