Twitter and Facebook have both recently announced key partnerships and product updates around their live streaming services.
Details and Implications
A new partnership between Twitter and the NFL is bringing live Thursday Night Football to the social platform. Twitter will stream ten out of sixteen regular season games broadcast by NBC and CBS free to air to its global audience. The deal also includes in-game highlights and pre-game Periscope broadcasts from players and teams.
The deal, which reportedly cost $10M, is not entirely exclusive as the games are simulcast on the NFL Network and are accessible on the NFL’s Mobile app via Verizon, in addition to being aired on network television. This makes for an increasingly fragmented and potentially confusing way for NFL fans to watch their favourite teams. The most obvious beneficiaries of this deal are NFL diehards abroad who can’t watch the game anywhere else, but given the myriad of ways a user can watch NFL online (via subscription services in selected markets) Twitter’s live stream needs to be both seamless and high quality to compete in this crowded marketplace.
Not to be outdone, Facebook, which recently hosted its most watched video to date with Buzzfeed’s exploding watermelon experiment (which had more views than a Conan show on TBS), recently signed deals with content producers including New York Times, Tastemade and Buzzfeed to produce a hundred live videos each month. Facebook is also making it easier to view live content by rolling out a dedicated live video tab on mobile, which will include different sections for live broadcasts around the world as well as live stories from your friends and Pages you follow. Facebook has also updated its algorithm to favour live videos as they are viewed 3x longer and have 10x more comments that non-live videos.
Facebook and Twitter are already everyone’s favourite second screen and as major social networks double down on live video streaming publishers and brands have additional opportunities to create more interactive video experiences to have deeper engagement with their audiences.
However, it is still unclear if viewers are willing to watch long form content, e.g. a three-hour football game on their mobile devices. While Facebook has improved its live video experience, Twitter has yet to disclose how its live stream will work. Can users still see their timeline? How easily can users toggle between apps while watching the stream? For many, three hours is a long time to be doing just one thing on your phone. Sports is also a social activity and watching it on a tiny screen makes it less so. Twitter can solve both issues if it follows the Periscope model and integrates real-time, relevant tweets from sports commentators and friends and allows the user to participate in the conversation in real-time without interrupting the stream.
Both platforms have yet to announce what the advertising opportunities are but this could be a game changer for marketers who specifically want to reach NFL viewers and other major live events like awards shows. Twitter and Facebook’s people based targeting is significantly more accurate and real-time than any broadcast buys allowing advertisers to tailor creative in a number of ways, reaching the right person, at the right time, with the right message. If the live streams are high quality and user experience is seamless, this could hasten the movement of “TV media dollars” to social media, which is what they really want.