The NFL is coming to Twitter, big time.
The league has reached an agreement with the social media company to live-stream Thursday night games this season. The agreement, first reported by Bloomberg, will cover entire games and not just short clips. Twitter, with its 800 million users, has been a second-screen destination for NFL fans virtually since its inception and now will become a single-screen source for games as well as commentary, video highlights and fan chatter.
Commissioner Roger Goodell shared the news in his first tweet since September 2014.
“Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football,” Goodell said in a statement released by the league a little later. “There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure ‘Thursday Night Football’ is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season. This agreement also provides additional reach for those brands advertising with our broadcast partners.”
The league stressed that the content will be available free across multiple digital platforms and will include in-game highlights from “TNF” as well as pregame Periscope clips from players and teams.
Digital rights to the games have been in play since January and last week Facebook dropped out of the bidding because it prefers live videos to be free of commercials and the NFL disagrees, according to Bloomberg. An unnamed source also told the outlet that streaming London games, which take place early on Sunday mornings, was unpalatable to Facebook.
The deal, however, is not a blockbuster along the lines of the $450 million that CBS and NBC together paid to share Thursday night games. CBS and NBC will each air five Thursday night games with the NFL Network simulcasting them and broadcasting eight Thursday and late-season Saturday games by itself. The Twitter deal, Re/Code reports, is worth less than $10 million for the entire 10-game package. CBS and NBC have their own digital rights, which increased the cost of their deal. Twitter will be rebroadcasting their feeds and will be able to sell what Re/Code says is “a small portion” of ads that accompany a game.
Last season, Yahoo paid $17 million to stream a 9:30 a.m. EDT London game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills. The NFL said that over 480 million minutes of the game were streamed, with 33 percent of those streams coming from international sources.
Initially, Verizon, Yahoo and Amazon were considered top contenders to land games when the digital package was put up for sale and Re/Code says that some of Twitter’s rivals had bid $15 million. In addition to added revenue, small as it may be to the league, the deal is important as people increasingly drop cable-TV subscriptions and become accustomed to streaming video over the Internet.
The NFL and Twitter have previously had a Twitter Amplify agreement since 2013 and the league’s account has been sharing in-game highlights.