Since the beginning of this year, a number of major companies including Amazon, Facebook, Verizon, and Yahoo have been said to be competing for the rights to live stream the National Football League’s Thursday Night Football. Now the issue has been settled, and it’s not any of the above companies who walked away with the rights.
Twitter has won the live streaming rights to Thursday Night Football, according to a report from Bloomberg. The social media company was bidding against Amazon, Verizon, and Yahoo, while Facebook dropped out of the bidding last week. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell later confirmed that Twitter would stream 10 games in 2016.
While this may seem a strange pairing at first, there is logic here. After all, Twitter does already have live video streaming technology in the form of Periscope, which it acquired last year, and it also has worked with the NFL in the past.
Last year Twitter inked a two-year deal with the NFL for sharing images and highlights of games on the service throughout the 2015 season, including the Super Bowl. For its part, the NFL’s social media team shared infographics and game recaps, encouraging discussion of recent games.
The NFL is aware of how quickly live streaming is catching on, and wants to stay ahead of the curve. Last October, the league partnered with Yahoo to live-stream the first-ever NFL game, drawing in more than 15 million viewers who watched on more than 33 million devices.
“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. “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.”
For Twitter, the deal helps in a number of ways. First, this could be the first step toward the company becoming a major video player alongside Google and Facebook. Second, it could also draw a significant number of new users to the service, seeing as the NFL and Thursday Night Football are home to the most-watched sport in the U.S. Whether people watch the games on Twitter or not, NFL-related discussions on the service will likely skyrocket.
Updated on 04-05-2016 by Kristofer Wouk: Updated to add confirmation from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell