Twitter will no longer stream Thursday Night Football games, but the company is still in business with the NFL.
Everyone’s favorite social media service and the NFL jointly announced on Thursday a multiyear agreement to produce original programming exclusively on Twitter.
Leading the list is a live 30-minute studio show produced five times a week. This will be a studio you’d see on ESPN or NFL Network — NFL Network will actually produce and staff the show — except streamed for your smartphone.
The NFL will also allow Twitter to create “unique” pre-game content before primetime broadcasts and other important games. Think Periscope streams of players warming up and quick interviews shot exclusively for Twitter. The league will also cut highlights and video packages designed for Twitter.
“Twitter continues to be an important partner in accessing millions of highly engaged fans on digital media,” NFL chief media and business officer Brian Rolapp said in a statement. “We have every expectation that the new daily live show, produced by NFL Network and featuring some of our top analysts, will quickly become some of the most popular programming on Twitter.”
This move feels like another brick in the bridge from the present digital media/sports programming arrangement and whatever the future ends up being. Facebook is taking its own steps toward becoming a traditional media programmer, launching up to two dozen “TV-like” scripted shows as early as next month. Google is becoming its own cable company. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples had a great, realistic look at why buying sports programming might make sense for a digital media company in the future:
Why might Amazon want to stream sports? Because it can serve up ads during games. A fan watching a game on TV would have to note a product that interests him and then seek it out either on the Web or at a brick-and-mortar store. Amazon could place a link within the ad that allows the viewer to purchase the product immediately. That ability to cash in on an impulse buy could be valuable to Amazon and to the manufacturers of the products purchased.
We can further extrapolate that Amazon might want to buy exclusive sports rights to leverage fans into purchasing Prime memberships. Research has shown Prime members spend more money at Amazon than non-members. If Amazon were to buy the Big Ten’s Tier 1 rights—meaning you’d need a Prime membership to watch Michigan-Ohio State or Nebraska-Wisconsin—that could mean millions of additional members who might eventually spend thousands more a year. Fox’s new six-year deal with the Big Ten will pay the league an average of $440 million a year for those rights. If Amazon paid $500 million a year for the same thing and it netted two million new Prime members who then spent an average of $1,500 more per year on Amazon than when they were non-members, Amazon would do an additional $3 billion in sales. Amazon’s profit would be $2.5 billion minus its cost on the products purchased and the production costs of the games. Assuming a respectable markup on its retail offerings, Amazon could make money on that deal.
In light of ESPN’s layoffs last month, is it possible that, say, a Brett McMurphy could report on college football exclusively for Twitter or Facebook in the future?
It’s impossible to know at this point, but the future melding of sports programming and digital media is closing in on us, one press release at a time.