Twitter today announced another content partnership to bring more live-streamed sports to its social network — this time, with the National Lacrosse League, of all things. While clearly not as popular as the NFL, with which Twitter inked a deal last year, lacrosse represents an opportunity for Twitter to build out a network of sports programming that TV channels don’t want and don’t air because of their smaller numbers.
Individually, these games may not draw TV-sized crowds. But, combined, these smaller audiences could add up for Twitter.
To some extent, Twitter has already tried to go this route — with e-sports. While a growing market, e-sports are not by any means considered mainstream. And yet, Twitter has scored several deals to live stream e-sports events on its network, including, most recently, 1,500 hours of competitions, through partnerships with ESL and DreamHack.
With the the National Lacrosse League (NLL) deal, Twitter has gained the rights to exclusively live stream its games for two years — a longer-term investment in building up its niche sports content. Twitter will broadcast a free NLL game per week, plus the playoffs and Champion’s Cup games and league-wide highlights, for both the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
These games will also appear on NLLTV.com, the league’s own subscription video platform. Seemingly, the NLL is looking to Twitter to grow its own audience of fans — its Twitter account today has 38,600 followers, so it could use the interest live games could bring.
The league also said it’s hoping that a partnership with Twitter will attract more younger fans to the sport, including millennials and Gen Z, which Twitter counts among some of its heaviest users.
“This is a historic broadcast relationship that will unlock the great game and we are honored to partner with Twitter. The future of the sports viewing experience is digital, and this partnership will not only elevate the fan experience by making the game more accessible to audiences, but enable simultaneous real-time conversations and connections with other fans on the same platform,” said NLL commissioner Nick Sakiewicz in a statement.
The NLL may not be televised, but it does have a devoted fan base offline. The organization, now in its 31st year, ranks third behind the NHL and NBA in average attendance for pro indoor sports worldwide, it says. Its league consists of nine franchises across the U.S. and Canada, including Buffalo Bandits, Calgary Roughnecks, Colorado Mammoth, Georgia Swarm, New England Black Wolves, Rochester Knighthawks, Saskatchewan Rush, Toronto Rock and Vancouver Stealth.
In addition to NLL, Twitter has made a number of other sports deals in the past, including university sports with Pac-12 Networks, one for NBA programs, a deal with the MLB and NHL and the NFL for its Thursday night games.
NLL games will stream live on NLL.twitter.com and via its @NLL account on mobile devices and computers, for both logged-in and logged-out users alike.