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GeekWire Illustration. Photo via Flickr/Goldberg.
GeekWire Illustration. Photo via Flickr/Goldberg.

In the past few months, Twitter has inked streaming deals with a bevy of content rights holders, from the NBA to MLB, to Bloomberg and CBS, to show live sports and news on the social media platform. It’s a new push for Twitter to make its service a centralized hub for live content and social commentary as it struggles to add more users and earn more advertising dollars.

After the company posted its second quarter earnings — which disappointed Wall Street, again — Twitter executives shed some light on how the company pitches its platform to these media companies.

Twitter CFO Anthony Noto laid out key competitive advantages that separate Twitter from others when it comes to hosting a live-streaming experience:

Large global audience: “We have more than 300 million logged-in users and more than 500 million logged-out users. Then we have a very large syndicated audience. When we sit down with media partners, brands, and content owners, we are able to articulate to them the scale of the audience.

The live-streaming product is also the same in all three use cases. You get the same experience when you are logged in, logged out, under syndicated partner properties, and with connected TVs.

We can actually sell-in an audience that is quite large, relative to other offerings.”

Knowing users: “Our logged-in users explicitly express their interest and what they care about … based on who they follow. Therefore we can tailor content we deliver to them based on specific interest. That delivers a higher-quality audience, not just a scaled audience.”

Global, mobile, youth: “80 percent of our users are outside the U.S.; 80 percent are on mobile; and a significant proportion are 18-to-34 years old — those that are hard to find, those that may not be on paid television.

We can help them reach people in different places that they aren’t necessarily reaching today in a younger demographic and extend that reach. What that ends up doing is it delivers a bigger audience for them, better economics for them, and benefits for us.”

Noto and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also talked a lot about “one complete solution,” with the live stream and social commentary coming together in one place. We saw this during the Wimbledon stream, and also with the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Twitter wants to stream more sports content, but its unclear if deals would include primarily live event coverage or highlights and analysis.
Twitter wants to stream more sports content, but its unclear if deals would include primarily live event coverage or highlights and analysis.

This is also something NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle touched on during a panel discussion I moderated at the Microsoft Envision conference in April, just after the NFL inked its deal with Twitter to stream Thursday Night Football games this season.

“This may reduce some friction between watching and commenting on the game, and being able to put your own spin and create your own content,” she said. “We will see more fan-created content around the actual production of the game.”

Noto said this “complete solution” offers media partners something more than what they show on traditional TV, and is directed at “connected” users that “drive virality and popularity.”

“We are looking to be an additive,” he said. “We are not just replicating the experience on TV. We combine it with a great timeline and many other social features.”

One aspect of Twitter that may be contributing to its lack of user growth is how the service is perceived. It’s why Twitter this week rolled out a new marketing campaign intended to help explain itself to new users.

The new live streaming content play is an easy way for Twitter to attract users, Noto said, regardless of how much knowledge they might have about the service.

“It’s very simple to tell people why to use Twitter now: Watch the Democratic National Convention,” he explained. “That’s something they understand and are familiar with. When they get to Twitter, it’s all there for them — the best tweets that go with the live video. They don’t have to understand which accounts to look for, which hashtags to look for, which @-signs to look for. So it’s one complete solution.”

How this live streaming strategy ultimately helps Twitter gain more users and, perhaps more importantly, grow its advertising revenue, remains to be seen. For the NFL games, ad inventory and revenue is split between the rights holders and Twitter, which has already sold slots for the Thursday Night streams to advertisers like Anheuser-Busch and Verizon.

Noto said these streaming deals align with Twitter’s Amplify platform and how the company earns revenue by partnering with media companies.

“It fits very nicely into our overall economic model,” he said.

As Twitter continues to stream more live content on its platform, the larger strategy is to take a “portfolio approach of free content, no authentication, and no paywall,” Noto noted.

At the end of Tuesday’s earnings call, Dorsey had this to say about the state of Twitter, which has seen its stock fall by nearly 50 percent in the past year and added just three million users in the most recent quarter:

“As CEO, I’ve seen a lot of benefit of our focus and our disciplined execution over the past year. The changes we are making to the product are focused on the use cases that we believe are important, that real-time live news and social commentary are actually increasing retention and engagement. There is so much farther to go in terms of our strength as not only a service of importance, but also a company and business of importance. We are focused right now on what matters most and what we need to fix, and we are seeing really healthy signs pointing us in the right direction in terms of what we need to continue to do. I have a lot of confidence in the ability and also that our five priorities are the right ones to drive sustained growth over time.”

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