What The NFL-Twitter Deal Means For Marketers

Twitter is in the unique position to consolidate TV, smartphones, and tablet screens into one holistic viewing and reacting experience, where people watch together and talk together.

What The NFL-Twitter Deal Means For Marketers

Earlier this week the NFL announced it has given Twitter exclusive rights to deliver free, live over-the-top (OTT) digital streams of 10 Thursday night football (TNF) games this coming season.

The games will be simultaneously broadcast by NBC or CBS, in addition to the NFL Network. But Twitter’s broadcast will open TNF beyond cable to global audiences, cord-cutters (connected TVs), and others watching football on the go, on phones, and tablets. The NFL-Twitter partnership also includes in-game highlights and pregame Periscope broadcasts from players and teams.

What makes this such a game-changer?

First some context: This announcement follows on the heels of CBS’s first-ever Super Bowl livestream, which, despite an initial technical glitch for Apple TV users, drove 4 million unique viewers—a live-streaming record. CBS also livestreamed the 2016 NCAA tournament, delighting cord-cutters who don’t get TBS.

Now we have the Twitter-NFL partnership, which extends the digital presence of live sports, aligning directly with the cord-cutting trend. In the U.S., the number of connected TVs is expected to grow 82% by 2018, according to The NPD Group. The NFL is clearly positioned for this future, not to mention a global extension of its brand via Twitter.

Twitter—in competition with Yahoo, Verizon, and Facebook—has scored the most high-profile live content, solidifying its role as the place to react to and share commentary on live TV. In fact, 87% of people use a second screen while watching TV, according to Accenture. This trend is particularly strong with awards shows and sports, as TV viewers simultaneously leverage Twitter on their smartphones/tablets to comment, share memes, and talk trash.

Twitter is now in the unique position to consolidate TV, smartphones, and tablet screens into one holistic viewing and reacting experience, where people watch together and talk together. Additionally, while a Twitter account may not be required, the move will almost certainly drive additional acquisitions (new sign-ups) for Twitter, a primary focus area. This takes Twitter down a path that Snapchat has already been successful with: creating a digital platform for live content that is welcomed by digital natives and expected by cord-cutters.

Considerations For Brands

This development highlights the need for all brands to start devising strategies to move “beyond digital,” with OTT/programmatic TV as the main area of focus. To illustrate, according to COO Adam Bain, Twitter will control some of the advertising inventory for the TNF games.

Without a doubt, some percentage of this inventory will be purchased programmatically. This will open a new world of live TV advertising, with commercials custom-tailored to certain audiences based on what we know about them from their Twitter and online footprints, as well as who and what brands they follow. Live TV ads will move from one-size-fits-all to targeted, personalized messages better positioned to convert. Advertisers also will be better able to attribute live TV ads to performance—clicks, engagement, leads, sales.

Bain also tweeted that brands will have the opportunity to associate with TNF content to reach audiences in the moment, when they’re most receptive. To illustrate this, Kohl’s recently livestreamed the Kohl’s Oscars party—hosted by SNL comedian Vanessa Bayer—on Twitter via Periscope during Oscars commercial breaks. Brands should soon see similar opportunities to partner with the NFL and Twitter on associated in-game content, especially on Periscope.

This is a big win for both Twitter and the NFL. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll see exactly how Twitter plans to make the best of it—for users and marketers.

See what the Twitterverse is saying about the second screen: