Jul 11, 2016 / by Jim Dougherty

When it was announced that Twitter won streaming rights to 10 NFL games for the 2016-2017 season, the logical next question was how they would deliver the content to viewers (Seahawks are streaming on December 15, so you have some time to prepare your tweets).

This past week during Wimbledon, Twitter demonstrated the delivery mechanism for live events: Twitter Live Sports. Unlike their mobile-enabled Periscope platform, Twitter Live Sports is high definition, not embeddable, and shows searchable Tweets (integrate “second-screen” functionality) in real time to the right of the video.

The feature got mixed reviews, starting from the point that the “live stream” wasn’t an actual live stream of tennis but of ancillary footage and highlights (and that the feed started on day 9 and was relatively undiscoverable). Aside from the content critiques, some insights were that the screen was too small (it can be blown up to full-screen) and that the tweet filtering wasn’t as effective as Twitter said it would be.

The truth is that we don’t know exactly how this feature will be received by people, or even whether the iteration demonstrated during Wimbledon will be the same that shows NFL games in the fall. But Twitter Live Sports is a departure from typical Twitter content, and there are a few compelling reasons that communication and marketing professionals should pay attention to its development over the next few months.

1. Twitter is pursuing other major events to stream

AdAge reports that in addition to the NFL streaming deal, Twitter is pursuing media streaming partnerships with 10 other entities (the NBA and MLS are two, and at least one of these isn’t sports-related perhaps making the “Live Sports” description a misnomer). Considering that Twitter has purportedly sold $30 million in advertising on a $10 million investment in streaming rights for the NFL, advertisers seem to be bullish on the potential for Twitter’s live streaming platform.

What this demonstrates for communication and marketing professionals is that live streaming on Twitter will be fast to develop and may offer opportunities for interaction around many future live events, perhaps offering the future opportunity for broadcasting. If the platform takes off for sports, one could speculate that either through third-parties like Netflix or as a stand-alone, Twitter may offer traditional broadcast-content through this feature.

2. Twitter shareholders are optimistic that this will grow audience

Twitter’s stock situation is well known: not good. Twitter has struggled to build its user base above a plateau of 300 million (ish), and monetization efforts have brought a lot of change without the revenue success that Facebook was able to achieve after transitioning to a publicly-traded company.

A recent uptick in stock price may be signaling that investors are optimistic about live streaming. Based upon this concept that leverages second-screen real-time commenting with live events, it may be that this generates the interest in Twitter necessary for the user and revenue growth they desire.

It may also signal that Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn may perpetuate the acquisition of Twitter, though. Which financial hot take are we to believe? For the continuity of this article, let’s believe the former…

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3. Live video stays on Twitter

There are a few features of Live Sports that are different from usual Twitter functionality:

  • Non-Twitter users can watch a live stream without creating a Twitter account.
  • Twitter live streams are not embeddable, meaning that you can’t live-stream the NFL from your site using an embed code.
  • Tweets are hashtagged automatically, so that the conversation is preserved in the context of the event.

Not that any of these adjustments are unexpected, but expect a different functionality in this feature than you’re usually accustomed to with Twitter. This means that communication and marketing professionals can expect a certain level of novice with some Live Sports users than with a typical Twitter user.

4. Why Twitter couldn’t do this with Periscopelive-streaming-sports

You may wonder why Twitter didn’t simply use its Periscope property for live streaming. While this might make sense at a certain level, from a brand perspective it was probably necessary to make this a Twitter feature. Here’s a speculative rundown of why Periscope isn’t handling sports live streaming.

  • Twitter wants to boost users and revenue. It stands to reason that live streaming on the platform is a way to encourage more people to sign up, and by generating tweets as conversation around the events this helps people to understand and use the platform easily.
  • General awareness of Periscope is far less than awareness of Twitter. Most people don’t use either, but they are more familiar with Twitter.
  • It would obfuscate the Periscope brand, which is intended to live-stream from mobile.

This strategy makes sense considering these. In addition, Twitter is leveraging mobile live streams on Periscope to enhance their NFL coverage, so there is some cross-promotion and integration happening as well.

For communication and marketing professionals, it is probably helpful to understand how Twitter is positioning their Live Sports feature versus Periscope, so that you can use each appropriately.

5. How far down will Twitter push the Live Sports utility?

The big question for communication and marketing professionals is how much of this functionality you will be able to use in the future. There’s reason to believe that Twitter will make hi-definition second-screen broadcasting available to all users, if precedents set by the high-accessibility of social features of Facebook Live and monetized broadcast options on YouTube are any indication.

And what if communication and marketing professionals are given access to this feature? What does this mean for interactivity of conference calls or presentations? Imagine the opportunities to interact on a second screen with clients, prospects or stakeholders in real time.


All kidding aside, what I wanted to demonstrate was that Twitter Live Sports (or whatever they end up calling it) is a unique function to Twitter, and  its content function is differentiated from Periscope. It is set to grow rapidly and (most likely) will be accessible to users at some point, and showcases Twitter’s unique “second-screen” feature in an integrated package. This may soon be another social tool for your communication and marketing plans. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking about how you would use it.

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Images via Pixabay: 1, 2

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About Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty is a featured contributor to the Cision Blog and his own blog, leaderswest. His areas of interest include statistics, technology, and content marketing. When not writing, he is likely reading, running, playing guitar or being a dad. PRSA member. Find him on Twitter @jimdougherty.