Tech companies’ push into streaming all sorts of sports content on their platform continues, and one of the latest moves there is from Twitter. At the tech-focused Digital Content Newfronts Monday, Twitter announced over 30 renewals and new collaborations (almost double what they did last year), and a whole lot of those are in the sports world.
Here’s a look at some of the new options in a few categories:
Sports media companies:
- ESPN: They’ll have “SportsCenter Live,” described as “When news breaks, ESPN will bring fans unparalleled coverage in Twitter Moments and video with @SCLive, a Twitter take on its flagship program.” They’ll also be streaming the Fantasy Focus Live podcast daily.
- Bleacher Report: They’re doing something in conjunction with the House of Highlights Instagram feed they bought a while back, described as follows: “On House of Highlights LIVE, athletes and celebrities alike will join Omar, HoH founder, for an inside look into what it takes to breakthrough online. Together they will find and share the most entertaining moments on and off the field.”
- Barstool Sports: They’ll have “Barstool Live,” “an 8-episode series exclusively on Twitter featuring live, original content from top sporting events across the country.” Pardon My Take‘s Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter will host alongside Pat McAfee, and there will also be “a rotating roster of Barstool’s top talent and special guests live onsite.”
- The Players’ Tribune: They’re bringing back “#Verified,” which has “some of the top draft prospects in both the NFL and NBA sharing their insight, reactions and timely takes on topics on and off the field.”
- Formula 1: Starting with the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13, they’ll have “a post-race show exclusively live on Twitter, featuring highlights, analysis, and interviews,” hosted by Will Buxton with “a number of the sport’s legends.”
- MLB: Beyond the weekly live game and highlights package already announced, they’ll have “a brand new show on Twitter around the MLB All-Star Game and Postseason.”
- MLS: In addition to their streaming of matches, highlights and halftime shows, Twitter’s going to “host the 2018 MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer. The annual showcase of top, young MLS academy talent will be live streamed on Twitter and will feature a live halftime show as part of the 2018 MLS All-Star festivities.”
- Call of Duty World League: Highlights and finals from CWL Anaheim Open (June 15-17), CWL Pro League- Stage 2 Playoffs (July 27-29), and the 2018 Call of Duty Championship (August 15-19).
- The Game Awards: The award show will stream on Twitter for a third year this fall.
- GameSpot: Live daily video from E3 and San Diego Comic Con.
- IGN: More than 30 hours of video live from E3.
- Intel Extreme Masters: “More than 700 hours of live streaming programming and highlight clips in 2018.”
So, there are a ton of options out there, and that’s before you consider any of the news (everything from NBC to BuzzFeed to Vice), entertainment (MTV through Seventeen through Live Nation concerts), or other (offerings from Delish and The Weather Channel) programming showing up on Twitter as a result of these new deals. And this makes a fair bit of sense for publishers; most of these companies are already producing or looking to produce this kind of video content anyway, and partnering with Twitter helps with distribution and revenue. It may make some sense for leagues, too, spreading their content (whether in-game or outside of game) to a wider crowd.
But a big question is how many people actually want to watch a lot of this stuff on Twitter, instead of, you know, accessing the platform just to read tweets from those they’re following.
Some of these new series seem likely to do okay, as it’s either playing off similar things the companies involved have done before (for example, SportsCenter Live sounds like it’s building off what’s worked for ESPN with SportsCenter on Snapchat, while GameSpot and IGN have done plenty of E3 video coverage before) or just a continuation of what’s already being done (the second season of #Verified). And maybe there is a big audience for some of this.
There also are some potential problems, though, especially when it comes to Barstool and to backlash against some of their personalities and content. ESPN decided last year to cancel Barstool Van Talk after just one episode following criticism for associating with the larger Barstool brand. And it’s worth noting that the Barstool/Facebook college football tailgate show was mutually ended last fall; logistics were cited as the issue there, not content, and this new show should be easier on that front, but it’s notable that the tailgate show had a similar concept (Barstool personalities live from big games) and didn’t work out.
In any case, it’s clear that Twitter’s casting a pretty wide net in terms of these partnerships both inside and beyond sports, trying to offer something for a whole wide range of interests. And it seems unlikely that everything here is going to be worth their while. But the larger goal may be trying to shift public perception of Twitter into a place that is a go-to to watch video, something that every platform (see also Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc…) is attempting to pull off. And some of the efforts so far have seen some praise:
— Eric Jackson (@ericjackson) May 1, 2018
As noted by AA’s Ben Koo, though, the bigger play here may be about the long term, with companies like Twitter and Facebook caring not so much about the immediate return but about trying to set themselves up as go-to video platforms for years down the road. They’re betting that viewing habits will change significantly in that time and that it will be important to be established as a place to watch video by then, and if some of these video shows hit in the meantime, great. But from the outside, there are some reasons to wonder if watching sports games or shows on Twitter will ever hit the level the company’s hoping for.