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

Twitter’s new NFL streaming deal is just the start of the company’s foray into live video content.

That was the sentiment shared by Twitter after posting its quarterly earnings report on Tuesday, which missed analyst expectations for revenue and sent shares down another 10 percent in after-hours trading.

Amid questions about user growth and decreasing advertiser spending, Twitter executives discussed the NFL deal it inked earlier this month for the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games exclusively on its platform for free around the globe. The deal was a first-of-its-kind for Twitter, which reportedly paid the NFL $10 million for the streaming rights and hopes to use the live games to attract more users and increase revenue from advertisers.

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Before taking any questions, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said that “almost every league in the world contacted us” after the company announced the NFL deal.

“We plan to expand our global offering of live sports, as well as live news, politics, and entertainment,” Twitter said in its letter to shareholders. “For content producers and rights holders like the NFL, we offer the ability to reach a large global, mobile, and younger audience both on and off of Twitter, together with years of experience making money jointly with partners through our Amplify program. You should expect to see us working with other partners to bring these kinds of joint experiences to life on Twitter.”

Twitter CFO Anthony Noto, who was previously CFO of the NFL, said on the company’s earnings call today that combining tweets with live video is a “complete solution.”

“We know that during a 3-hour Thursday Night Football telecast, we have millions of users looking at tweets about that game and creating tens of millions of impressions that we know are very valuable to them, and very valuable to our partners — both the NFL, and of course our advertisers,” he explained. “Being able to bring the live streaming game into the product with those live conversations and commentary is a complete solution.”

That’s similar to what NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle said earlier this month, noting how fans are already using Twitter while they watch games. Now, the actual live event will be embedded within Twitter’s stream itself.

NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle speaks at Microsoft Envision earlier this month in New Orleans.
NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle speaks at Microsoft Envision earlier this month in New Orleans.

“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, speaking on a sports technology panel that I moderated at the Microsoft Envision conference in New Orleans. “We will see more fan-created content around the actual production of the game.”

But Twitter, which beat out other bidders like Facebook, Verizon, and Amazon for the Thursday Night Football streaming rights, also sees the partnership as a way to add new users — something it’s struggled with over the past few years.

“It will also show people who don’t already use Twitter that our service is the destination for live events and the conversations around them,” Twitter said in its shareholders letter.

Noto added that “we’ve talked about importance of us clearly communicating our values and delivering on it instantly,” noting how streaming NFL games on its platform is a good way to do this.

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As it relates to making money — Twitter missed revenue estimates for Q1 by $13 million — the company said it controls some of the video advertising for its Thursday Night Football live stream during the game, as well as pre-game and post-game. Twitter said it already inked one advertising deal with a Fortune 50 company in the live stream “with many more expected in the coming months.”

Twitter COO Adam Bain noted today that the Fortune 50 company’s sponsorship was funded from its video budget versus a social media budget.

“It’s a good example of how the overall live streaming strategy we have is aiding our ability to go after these video budgets,” he said.

Twitter also plans to utilize Periscope, its live-streaming app, to show users live behind-the-scenes content before, during, and after the NFL games.

Dorsey said today that watching a live event with Twitter is “something we’ve seen for nine years,” when Twitter originally launched. Now the company is building upon that habit.

“People get to see all the content on Twitter right away,” Dorsey said of the NFL stream. “They get to see all the individually-produced content and the premium content as well.”

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