When Jack Dorsey was named CEO of Twitter last October, he came in with one goal – Make Twitter Great Again.
Twitter has always been a great tool to use and when it made its debut, there was a buzz and esteem that came with the social network. But as time flew by, the number of active users became stagnant and the product didn’t transform much. Dorsey wanted to ensure that the world knew how much of an asset Twitter is for the world to communicate better.
Twitter is the most powerful communications tool of our time. It shows everything the world is saying rn…10-15 minutes before anything else.
— jack (@jack) October 5, 2015
Almost six months later, Dorsey has helped strengthen Twitter’s mark on society when it comes to communication through Periscope, the addition of video to tweets and Twitter Moments among other things. But his biggest move yet happened yesterday when the social media platform acquired rights to full live NFL games on Thursday nights. Dorsey and the Twitter staff will be providing a new, innovative way for users to interact with the content they tweet about as The MMQB’s Peter King points out:
If you’ve got a laptop open and want to stream the game, you’ll have the option of watching the game on the full screen, the way the NFL did last fall on the Jacksonville-Buffalo Yahoo Sports streaming experiment, or as part of a dual screen—watching the game on part of it, and using Twitter on the other part of the screen.
NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle also expressed similar sentiments to GeekWire.
“This may reduce some friction between watching and commenting on the game, and being able to put your own spin and create your own content,” she said. “We will see more fan-created content around the actual production of the game.”
By acquiring rights to the NFL, Twitter will be able to prove to advertisers and skeptics of the company that it is a major distributor to be reckoned with. While the website only has 300 million active users compared to Facebook’s 1 billion, Twitter has the ability to reach millions more through embedded tweets that are commonly used by blogs and other websites alike. Re/Code also reports that Twitter is in talks with Yahoo and Google about syndicating the games on their platforms which will increase viewership even more.
Twitter also benefits from the coronation the NFL bestows upon any company associated with them. By aligning themselves deeper with the league, they’ll be able to draw users who typically wouldn’t use the service. Fox experienced a similar uptick in viewership after acquiring NFL rights and the company has never looked back since. The reality is that no matter what era you’re in, the NFL will always be considered as premium content that helps increase a company’s brand awareness.
Facebook has been stealing attention and headlines from Twitter in their own respective attempt to become the home of live event discussions. They’ve expanded their video immensely and have even been considered by The Drum as “the sports broadcaster of the future” because broadcasters have used their Facebook Live streams to provide interesting supplementary programming more so than on Periscope. Twitter needed to do something to show its investors, users and competitors that it is taking Facebook’s new strategy seriously and that it will remain the home of live communication no matter what they do.
Don’t get it twisted. This acquisition will not save the company by any stretch. This move does more for Twitter’s prestige than it does for their bottom line. But it is a good start and good beginning for how Twitter needs to grow long term. The platform already serves as a place for debate concerning live events but now Twitter needs to also serve as a destination for those live events to be watched as well.
There isn’t much money to be made serving as a conversation hub. There is money to be made if the product starting the conversation lives within the same place where the conversation hub exists. Watching an NFL game or a TV show while also live tweeting about it in the same place at the same time gives users more of a reason to stay on Twitter. Best of all, Twitter can sell ads against the NFL game or TV show. There is no concrete way to sell ads against tweets yet.
Twitter’s leadership seems to be thinking in the same realm. CFO Anthony Noto tells CNN, “We will continue to explore opportunities to partner with media and content companies to bring the best elements of live sports, live news and politics, and live entertainment to our users.”
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