Nobody saw this one coming.
In a move that likely had execs at Facebook, Amazon and Verizon cursing into their cereal, the NFL announced on Tuesday morning that they’ve drafted Twitter as their exclusive partner to stream 10 Thursday Night Football matchups throughout the upcoming season.
But, wait a second. Live sports on Twitter? How? What? Why?
The digital broadcasts project to be some combination of live “over-the top” (OTT) streaming of gameplay via a yet-to-be-released native video tool Twitter has in development and pre-game/behind-the-scenes Periscope broadcasts from players and teams.
The streaming video will accompany telecasts of the games on NBC or CBS and the NFL Network as part of the league’s “Tri-Cast” distribution model.
The NFL and Twitter are betting fans will come for the content and then stay for the conversation — not a terrible wager considering 27 million tweets were sent during coverage of Super Bowl 50, generating 4.3 billion impressions, nearly double the previous year.
The surprise partnership comes on the heels of the NFL streaming a game from London on Yahoo! last season and it will “ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season,” says NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. During the Yahoo! livestream, 33% of viewers tuned in internationally, a number that will almost assuredly rise.
Given that Yahoo! paid $17 million to stream a single game last season, the undisclosed price tag for Twitter surely wasn’t cheap, but the platform did see an immediate jump in its share price following the announcement. The deal also may give Twitter an opportunity to revive its six-month-old Moments feature, an addition that has been somewhat lagging up to this point.
So when will we get to see how this all works? The 2016 regular-season schedule drops on the 18th.
Get your popcorn ready.
Image via Sports Field Management