Following its latest streaming deals, it's safe to say that Twitter's (TWTR - Get Report) foray into professional live video isn't a mere test or a sideshow, but a major initiative that it's committing substantial financial, engineering and advertising resources towards. And the effort just might boost user growth and engagement in a way that the much-hyped launch of Twitter's Moments feature has apparently failed to.
On Monday, the microblogging platform announced it will stream out-of-market MLB and NHL games for free once per week, as well as a nightly program created by sports video content provider 120 Sports. Interestingly, the 120 Sports program, known as The Rally, will use Twitter data to "determine live trending topics as well as adding other interactive elements for instant conversation and analysis of the moments that matter most to sports fans."
The agreement is the latest in a whirlwind of streaming deals Twitter has unveiled over the last few months. The live content from previously announced deals includes:
- 10 Thursday Night NFL games that will also be broadcast by CBS and NBC
- A Wimbledon-related stream in partnership with ESPN (apparently a test) that featured match commentary and highlights
- 300-plus college sports events, through a deal with college sports site Campus Insiders
- "At least 150" Pac-12 conference sporting events during the 2016-2017 academic year
- Two NBA-related shows, including a weekly pre-game show
- Several Bloomberg TV programs
- The Republican and Democratic national conventions, through a partnership with CBS
Put it all together, and Twitter is quickly amassing enough content to pitch itself -- both to consumers and advertisers -- as a major live programming destination. One could easily see Twitter creating a "Live Video" button within the menu bar for its site and apps that shows current live professional streams, as well as interesting content being broadcast via its Periscope live-streaming platform.
Content synergies, of course, run well beyond Periscope. The page for Twitter's Wimbledon stream contained a live feed of tweets related to the tennis tournament. And Twitter can sell marketers on ad packages that combine in-stream video ads with other offerings, such as Promoted Tweets and Amplify video clip ads.
Meanwhile, Twitter appears to be paying very little for its streaming deals. The NFL deal reportedly cost less than $10 million. Many content owners seem willing to let Twitter stream their material in exchange for little more than an ad revenue cut and the social media buzz that will come with having popular Twitter streams.
With a lot of this content clearly having an appeal that goes beyond Twitter's core user base, live streaming deals give the company, whose monthly active users rose by only 3% annually in the first quarter, an opportunity to reel in users who have been cool to its core services. It's now up to Twitter to make the most of it.