Twitter is looking to grow its partnership with the NFL after what it described as a win-win deal this past season.
As part of the company’s letter to shareholders following its Q4 earnings report posted Thursday, Twitter highlighted its live streaming NFL product that debuted this past season, calling it “the major highlight of the fourth quarter.”
Millions of football fans around the world had a new, free option for streaming NFL games thanks to Twitter after the company paid the NFL a reported $10 million to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games this past fall.
Twitter said today that it had an average audience of 3.5 million unique viewers per game (a bit higher than previously reported due to a new video view standard Twitter is now using). While that’s a small percentage of fans who watched via TV on NBC, CBS or the NFL Network, it’s still a sizable chunk of folks using Twitter’s platform to watch football.
On the post-earnings call with analysts, Twitter COO Anthony Noto said the live games “exceeded our expectations on both revenue and profitability for both us and our partners.” He touted Twitter’s younger audience (55 percent under the age of 25) and international reach (25 percent outside the U.S.) as reasons for why the NFL picked the platform.
“We will look to partner with [the NFL] in a bigger way,” Noto said.
Twitter beat out other suitors like Facebook and Amazon for the rights to stream the 10 Thursday Night Football games this season. It’s still not clear if Twitter and the NFL will ink another live streaming partnership next season.
But another deal would make sense for Twitter, given its new focus on buying rights to live content and streaming the action on its platform. Twitter has similar deals with leagues like the NBA and MLB; it streamed 600 hours of live programming during Q4, with 50 percent of that sports-related.
In an interview with GeekWire last month, Twitter’s global head of sports partnerships Laura Froelich said that the live streaming deal with the NFL went “incredibly well,” noting increases in viewership each week and positive comments from fans.
“Our hypothesis was that we had the ability to instantly explain the value and power of Twitter by having both the game, and the conversation around the game, all in one place,” she said. “It’s really, really resonating with fans.”
Some advertisers were reportedly underwhelmed by the audience numbers from Twitter’s stream. But Froelich said companies like Verizon and Anheuser-Busch, which paid Twitter a reported $2-to-$8 million for NFL streaming packages, are happy and “extremely excited to be in on the innovation and how we are redefining how fans consume live sports.”
Twitter also partners with the NFL via its Amplify advertising program, a revenue-share deal for advertisers that the NFL has been apart of for the past four years and uses to publish more than 100 video highlights on Twitter per week.
When asked last month if the NFL will partner with Twitter again next season for a live streaming deal, an NFL spokesperson told GeekWire that the league is still evaluating its options.
Despite all the positive talk about the NFL deal, it didn’t do so much for Twitter’s overall revenue and user growth numbers, which disappointed investors on Thursday and sent shares down 10 percent.