The NFL just released numbers on last night’s debut of NFL’s Thursday Night Football on Twitter, and they are pretty damn good.
More than 2M people watched the game on Twitter, compared to 48M who watched it on TV. The average user also spent 22 minutes watching on Twitter, compared to 25 minutes watching on TV (which is the only stat that is almost identical).
More specifically, an average of 243,000 people were watching on Twitter at any given time, compared to an average of 15.4M watching at once on CBS and NFL Network (the two networks showing the game on cable).
While the numbers seem low compared to cable, it’s actually a pretty big win for the network, which was able to show investors and the rest of the industry that at least some people will actually watch a live streamed game on Twitter.
But perhaps even more important than the numbers was the very positive reaction almost anyone had that watched the game. Thousands of people (including myself) took to Twitter to share how impressed they were with the quality of the stream – even over LTE or 4G. At certain points Twitter’s stream was even more current than cable, which can lag behind 10 – 15 seconds. Many also commented that the Apple TV viewing experience (which put a timeline next to the stream) was a great way to watch the game.
One pain point some had (including myself) is that the timeline of tweets embedded next to the stream was from essentially anyone who used certain NFL hashtags. I get being inclusive, but I don’t want to see random people’s commentary when watching football.
Twitter should figure out a way to make sure these tweets are high-quality content that will enhance (and not distract from) the viewing experience either by hand-curating the tweets or only showing tweets from verified users.
The next question is whether the stream will bring new users to Twitter that have never used the platform before. As of now you don’t have to log in to watch the stream, but Twitter it tempting users to log in so they can comment in the livestream (which almost reads like a troll box). However, some users post last night that they had totally forgot they had a Twitter account, and the Thursday Night Football stream is what brought them back to the platform.