Twitter’s First NFL Live Stream, The Good And The Bad

By @TheMarkDalton

Last Thursday Twitter streamed its first NFL game live between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. Now I know that American Football is a very small community over here in Ireland but I am a massive American Football fan myself and have been telling people for the past few months just how big getting this deal was for Twitter.

Twitter has been playing with live streaming in recent months but this game was the first big time event they have streamed. It was free of charge to watch and is a result of a $10 million deal between Twitter and the NFL.

Twitter is hoping that aggressive moves into live streaming will help them grow and help increase advertising revenue which in turn could help them on Wall Street. Twitter has signed additional deals with the MLB, NHL and Bloomberg so this was their first chance to show what they can do on a big stage.

So how did they do? Following the live stream are Twitter now a company who are going to be on the up with future live content? At the moment, no. They got a lot of things right but also got a lot of things wrong.

The Good

1) It worked: Lets start with the simple here, it worked. That might not sound like a lot but plenty can go wrong with live streams. Not long ago Apple made a complete mess of a live stream at one of their events and it was a horror show where the stream repeatedly crashed and they couldn’t get it back.

Considering it was Twitter’s first time, it was pretty smooth sailing. There were complaints about lag but anyone who has streamed content online before will know that is not uncommon.

2) It was received well: There was positive reaction from people watching online from both Twitter fans and investors keeping a keen eye on how it unfolded. Some branded it as the future of live TV.

3) Open to all: Interestingly, Twitter took the decision to open the stream to everyone regardless of whether they had an account or not. You didn’t need to register or sign in and you didn’t need to prove you were an NBC or CBS subscriber – something which is common in the states for streamers.

It was an interesting move to keep it open considering that Twitter is under pressure to grow and get more people signing up but the belief is more than likely that users who joined in online would consider signing up afterwards if the experience was a good one.

The Bad

1) An incoherent stream of tweets: One of the big complaints users had was that the stream of tweets which showed up beside the stream of the game was a jumbled mess. It was completely random and all over the place. It was impossible to follow and would probably be better if Twitter provided a way for users to curate their own feeds so they can bring the noise down.

2) You have to see the tweets: You can’t just tune in and watch the stream, the tweets go hand in hand and there is no way of removing them. Now of course this makes sense for Twitter who want to attract people to the service and show how tweets can compliment live content.

3) No value: Twitter hoped to boost ad revenue but it is questionable how much value advertisers will actually get. Twitter is asking for $1 million and $8 million for all 10 Thursday night games but advertisers can get better bang for their buck on cable.

See the NFL stream on Twitter is not unique, it is the same stream shown on NBC and CBS in America which is free for Thursday night football so that makes it less of a compelling offer to tune into Twitter. It makes more sense for advertisers to continue running ads on cable as opposed to the Twitter stream.

Was it a success?

For Twitter it will feel like a big success but the company is still fighting an uphill battle against its competitors. The stream went well and showed that Twitter is capable of handling live video content. Now they just need to figure out how to make the experience better and make money while doing it.