Blog by: George Thomas and Ron Ledgard
Twitter is taking a stab at remaining relevant.
That’s what their gangster move to buy streaming rights for 10 NFL games — at a price of $1 million per game, according to SportsBusiness Daily — represents.
The microblogging social media site has existed in a constant state of turmoil in recent months as growth subsides, leadership flips and stock price stagnates.
Leaders of the site that recently celebrated its first decade contended with accusations that it willingly tolerated bigots, misogyny, sexism, trolls and the like, thus keeping saner people away.
Those descriptions aren’t entirely unwarranted. People liken Twitter to the wild, wild west. At times it can be worse.
For many in the sports media who use it, Twitter is a viable, important means of communication that allows healthy debate and a lot of the immediate interaction with their readers.
For other media members, it’s become something that is little more than part of the job, a method to enhance a personal brand. Right now, this short-term deal (it’s for just one year) is about Twitter enhancing its brand with the aid of one of its partners.
Ultimately, after what can only be deemed an experiment, NFL fans win in this scenario. Twitter is free and doesn’t require a contract. In a society in which television is becoming less about sitting at home in front of a huge screen (for some), this represents evolution.
Yes, sporting events have been made available via streaming, but the Gepettos of the TV industry haven’t been willing to let go of the strings controlling who gets access. To view ESPN’s games on a mobile device, viewers must offer proof that they subscribe to a video provider. Ditto for most other services, including regional sports networks such as Fox Sports Ohio.
Even in the round of bidding for streaming rights to these 10 games, mobile provider Verizon was under consideration, which would have severely limited a potential audience.
Twitter will just require users provide some pithy screen name and an email address and — boom — access. It’s a win-win. Twitter gets those who might not normally sign up for their site. And the NFL? Most recent data pegged the number of active monthly Twitter users at approximately 305 million. On potential alone, that’s a lot of eyeballs staring at a tiny screen. Who knows exactly how many are away from a TV screen.
On top of that, those who use the service regularly know Twitter is the meeting space for any number of users with common interests. Think Cavs Twitter or Browns Twitter.
Watching a game on any given night is already a shared experience to a limited degree. Now envision the reactions of Twitter users as they watch the same stream at the same time, thus making it even more of a communal experience.
In that regard, the NFL wins, primarily because of demographics.
According to a Pew Research Center survey from 2014, 37 percent of Twitter users fell into the 18-29 age range. The NFL, which has taken its lumps of late because of its ongoing concussion issue, could cultivate its next generation of diehard football fan and ensuring brand loyalty.
A while ago, no one would have questioned whether the NFL would maintain its grip on sports. This move could represent a preemptive strike to ensure it doesn’t.