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Twitter's live NFL debut a good start, but …

Matt Kapko | Sept. 20, 2016
Twitter passed its first big live-football test last Thursday, but the social platform must cultivate more unique value for NFL fans if it hopes to steal them away from traditional TV broadcasts.

nfl football new york jets buffalo bills

Twitter needed a win, and it got one in a big way last Thursday night when the New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills 37 to 31. Twitter's NFL debut was a significant test for the beleaguered social media platform. The live broadcast didn't experience any major hiccups and, according to the NFL and Nielsen, 2.1 million people watched the game on Twitter.

Thursday night's game was the first of 10 matchups Twitter plans to stream throughout the remainder of the season. Twitter inked the deal with the NFL in April, and it is making a concerted effort to push further into live broadcast TV with sports, news and entertainment programming. Leading up to kickoff, the company also released new apps for streaming devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Microsoft's Xbox One, to expand its reach.  

Jan Dawson, chief analyst and founder of tech research firm Jackdaw, says the Twitter stream quality "seemed fine," and the experience worked as intended. The NFL and Twitter partnership, however, still "needs a lot more work to be valuable" to NFL fans. 

Twitter buries NFL live stream in its mobile app

The live stream wasn't in the primary feed on Twitter's mobile app, except for the occasional promoted tweet. Instead, it was buried inside the app's Moments tab. Mobile users had to tap at least four times to view the game in full-screen mode on their devices. The process was  two steps shorter using Twitter's new apps for streaming devices. Viewers also reported delays during the game, saying Twitter's feed ran at least 30 seconds behind the live action.

"One of the biggest benefits versus other ways of watching the game on one of these devices is that it just worked — there was no sign-in or authentication," Dawson says. "That may not sound like much, but it's one of the biggest barriers to over-the-top streaming of this kind of content, and eliminating that is a big deal."

[Related: Twitter fails to impress with Wimbledon live stream]

Twitter's NFL viewership matched the digital audience Yahoo reported when it streamed an NFL game last October, but the company hopes to draw more eyes as the season unfolds. Twitter's NFL audience also pales in comparison to the 48.1 million total people who watched the game on traditional TV, as well as the average of 15.4 million people who were watching the game at any given time, according to Nielsen.

 

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