Twitter is continuing to grow its live streaming business, with a series of new deals announced over the past week or so, including a partnership that will bring live streams from the floor of the San Diego Comic-Con in July, as well as behind-the-scenes action and news from Wimbledon, among several other efforts.
You may recall that Wimbledon was the first live-streamed sport to pop up on Twitter’s network last year, after the company had announced its $10 million deal to stream the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games. The Wimbledon coverage wasn’t then heavily promoted by Twitter, and was instead seen as more of a test of how live streaming would work across Twitter’s platforms.
How times have changed. In the year since, Twitter has delivered a slew of live streamed sports, sports-related programming, news, concerts, and other events to its service, including streams from the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, NLL, college sports, even esports, and many more.
This time around, Twitter’s Wimbledon deal is with the The All England Club, not ESPN, which is partnering with Twitter to live stream The Wimbledon Channel during the event. This coverage will include daily content, like news and interviews, behind the scenes footage, and “selected action” from the matches. (In other words, you can’t watch the matches in full, live).
The addition is one of several deals Twitter has announced over the past couple of weeks. Another notable partnership is with IGN, which will live stream from the huge entertainment event, San Diego Comic-Con 2017, via comiccon.twitter.com. The media company will broadcast up to 13 hours of live coverage from the show floor from July 19 through July 22, Twitter says.
This will include interviews from ABC, AMC, DC, Lionsgate, Marvel, Netflix, Starz, TBS and others, including live pre- and post show commentary from IGN hosts and special guests. The coverage will also be augmented with trailers, behind the scenes footage, interviews with actors and producers, cosplay worn by attendees, and more.
The deal represents an expanded relationship between Twitter and IGN, which most recently used the social network to broadcast coverage from the esports-focused event, the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in L.A.
Other recent deals will bring more sports to Twitter as well, as the company is snapping up access to more niche programming, like that from the Canadian Football League (CFL), the Arab world’s inter-club football, and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).
And previously this summer, Twitter live streamed other events of significance, like James Comey’s Congressional Testimony via Bloomberg and Ariana Grande’s One Love Manchester benefit concert, for example.
Though a continued focus on live streaming is helping Twitter to better deliver on its mission to be the network where you go to find out what’s happening now, it’s also facing heavy competition from live streaming rivals and other major tech companies when it comes to scoring the sort of flagship coverage people actually want to watch. (Canadian football is not it.)
For instance, earlier this year, Twitter lost the NFL deal to Amazon, which reportedly paid $50 million for the rights, or five times more than what Twitter had paid last year. That’s led to some criticism of Twitter’s efforts in the live streaming space, with pundits saying that it just won’t have the funds to keep up with today’s major players – it will be outbid on the better live stream deals, that is, and left to pick up scraps.
In response to the loss to Amazon, however, Twitter partnered with the NFL on its own live video deal that includes news and highlights, but not games. This may not be the best NFL content, but it does fit in with Twitter’s news-focused reputation. It is, after all, where news breaks, is discussed, and where a large number of journalists generally hang out.
Still, some of Twitter’s recent announcements do make it appear that it’s doubling down on sports’ long tail and other smaller events that lack mainstream appeal. The company said in May it has 200 premium live video partnerships, which seems to back up the assumption that it’s doing a ton of “small potatoes” deal.
But while you can dismiss the individual deals as being non-consequential, the cumulative effect – or, at least Twitter hopes – is that people will begin to think to check Twitter to see if something is being live streamed. And if Twitter can gain mindshare around live video even without deals as big as NFL games, that could long-term help boost its other metrics – like signed-in users, ad dollars, and more.