Twitter sees 'live windows' as evolution of TV sports relationships
By Simon Ward
Twitter wants to be able to offer its users access to “live windows” of major sports events as part of a future development of its partnerships with rights-holding broadcasters.
Like other internet giants Amazon, Facebook and YouTube, the social media network has started acquiring high-profile live sports rights, starting with Thursday night NFL games in 2016, and weekly out-of-market MLB games, in USA only, in 2017 and 2018.
However, these have been non-exclusive deals, and the platform still sees its sports offering as complementary, rather than a threat, to that of traditional linear broadcasters, and believes that the relationship can be strengthened for the benefit of all parties.
Citing the impact on social media of Barcelona’s famous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 of last year’s Uefa Champions League, Theo Luke, director, sports partnerships EMEA at Twitter, said that the company had the capacity to ride on the coat-tails of the traffic generated by such events to offer live cut-ins of the action.
Barcelona’s 6-1 win, which overturned a 4-0 first-leg deficit, generated 6 million tweets and the YouTube highlights video from BT Sport, the UK pay-television broadcaster, which is also a partner of Twitter, has been watched nearly 1.5 million times.
Speaking at the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference in London on Friday, Luke said: “Cast your mind back to that amazing Barcelona game and now imagine you’re one of millions of people on Twitter who are football fans, but were missing the action.
“[What] if Twitter could offer you a live limited window that drove a user to a broadcaster’s OTT offering to transact and watch? If we can do this successfully (and we have some work to do to get there), if we can do this working in partnership with rights-holders, then we can be a broadcaster’s best friend and not the wolf at the door.”
Twitter’s present relationships with European broadcasters include offering real-time clips of goals from the Champions League via the BT Sport account, an example, Luke said, of how it can be an “additive and collaborative platform for sports providers.”
He added: “BT Sport don’t give us Champions League clips because we’re nice to them. They give them to us because they get reach and engagement with fans, and they make money as well. That’s going to be the critical part we’re going to focus on.”
Both BT Sport and Twitter can expect significant traction in the UK from the final of this season’s Champions League, which takes place on 26 May, given that it involves Premier League club Liverpool, up against 12-times winners Real Madrid, and will be shown on a free-to-air basis.
Twitter is also teaming up with ITV, the UK commercial broadcaster, to show clips from this summer’s World Cup, promoted by prominent brands, building on the partnership covering England’s qualifying games, in which ITV tweets were sent out in association with video game franchise Assassin’s Creed.
Luke said: “In that case Assassin’s Creed was essentially underwriting ITV’s marketing spend on our platform, and also driving additional revenues for ITV. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, and it’s why I think Twitter is a great place for broadcasters to connect with the next generation of customers.”
Twitter is also establishing similar partnerships in other parts of the world, last week concluding a deal with the Chinese Super League to offer match highlights and other clips via its new account on the platform.
This comes on top of nine new and extended video content deals in the Asia-Pacific region announced at the Sportel Asia trade fair in Singapore in March, all of which offer in-stream sponsorship opportunities.
The media companies engaged included broadcasters Astro, from Malaysia, Eleven Sports Singapore and Fox Sports Asia, along with Sportsfix, the Malaysian OTT service, BallBall, the digital video soccer platform in southeast Asia, and Indonesia’s TV One and NetTV.
Golf’s Asian Tour and the International Table Tennis Federation rounded off the nine clients.