Ahead Of Bowl Season, ESPN Teams Up With Twitter To Provide College Football Video Highlights In Stream

As second, third and fourth screens become increasingly popular among sports fans, Twitter has been among those platforms to see a significant increase in sports-related chatter. Social media and Twitter in particular have become popular destinations for fans looking to share their thoughts and engage in conversation during the action.

For the holidays this year, Twitter and ESPN have teamed up to provide college sports fans with the ability to watch highlights from this year’s Bowl games on the go. Beginning today, in anticipation of College Football Bowl Season, ESPN will be delivering instant video highlights to sports fans via Twitter.

The integration of instant replay video content in-stream is a first for ESPN and aims to capitalize on the convergence of mobile and real-time content distribution — playing to Twitter’s strengths — and bringing those strengths to bear on video.

In conversation with the New York Times, Twitter’s director of promoted content and partnerships Glenn Brown said that college football fans will have access to instant replay “on whatever platform they use to access Twitter,” though the experience has been optimized specifically for mobile consumption. Users will get alerts on their mobile phones at key points in a game, allowing them to tune in on their TVs, radio, etc.

Thanks to Twitter Cards, the company’s new expanded-tweets feature, users will be able to watch video in stream without leaving the comfort of their favorite micro-blogging platform. This means they no longer have to click over to ESPN, or any other third-party website for that matter, to watch video or view images.

This follows on the heels of Instagram pulling its support for Twitter Cards and Twitter’s launch of its own, Aviary-powered photo filtering functionality.

ESPN becomes the latest addition to a small but growing club of companies seeking to expand their footprint in the Twitter stream, pushing “the limits of multimedia tweets,” as Josh said Tuesday. ESPN joins YouTube, Rdio, Official.fm and Soundtracking on the roster of recent Twitter Card adopters.

As to ESPN’s stream-based instant replays, according to Brown (in conversation with The NYT), the content will be chosen by the college football editors at ESPN and, unfortunately, will include a promotional clip for the Ford Fusion at the outset. The posts will then be promoted to those who are not already following Ford or ESPN, Brown said, but might be “interested in the clips based on the people they follow and what they post to Twitter about.”

The replays, which will begin with a short promotional clip for the Ford Fusion, will be selected by ESPN’s college football editors. The posts will be promoted to people who are not following Ford or ESPN but who may be interested in the clips based on the people they follow and what they post to Twitter about, Mr. Brown said.

The era of social media video is upon us, and it looks like ESPN is leading the way. For the sports media behemoth, it couldn’t come at a better time, as it was just supplanted as the top digital sports video provider in the U.S. Going forward, we should start to see digital video providers move, en masse, to capitalize on Twitter’s new multimedia tweets as yet another distribution channel that could put their content in front of scores of new viewers — in realtime.