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Twitter to Stream Thursday Night NFL Games

Twitter has secured its first ever broadcast deal to show 10 Thursday night NFL games during the 2016 season, in a package reported to be around $10 million.

Twitter hopes the deal will come as a boost to the company, which has recently been struggling to attract new users, improve its content, and keep its best talent, as well as experiencing plummeting stock prices. Should the move be a success, it could also pave the way for further video streaming deals that would include other sports events, political content, and eventually entertainment, Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto revealed.

“This is one element of a much broader strategy to provide the next generation of real-time content,” said Noto, who was the Chief Financial Officer of the NFL until 2010. Since he joined Twitter in 2014, the site has started distributing exclusive NFL clips and highlights.

The deal also highlights the changing trends in how sports fans access their content, with a growing number of people streaming games on the internet. However, the matches will continue to be broadcast on TV networks including NBC, CBS, and the NFL Network, the NFL confirmed in a statement on Tuesday.

Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain said in a post on Twitter the deal “continues our strategy to build world’s best daily connected audience that watches together and can talk with one another in real-time,” he wrote.

At around $1 million a game, Twitter has secured the deal below the standard market rate. Services such as CBS and NBC paid up to $45 million a game to stream 5 Thursday night contests, while Twitter will be paying a fraction of that.

“We did not take the highest bidder on the table,” said Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s executive vice president of media, of the Twitter deal. “The platform is built around live events already. We want to see how they use the unique platform, and syndicated tweets all over the Internet is going to be interesting.”

Verizon had been considered the favourites in the negotiations for the NFL’s Thursday night deal, but the NFL reportedly preferred Twitter’s more diverse outlook, according to sources at Bloomberg. 

The biggest question for Twitter now will be whether they can build the streaming service into something which can rival the likes of Netflix, Amazon, or large TV networks.

“This is a bigger strategic effort for Twitter than it would have been for any other of the reported companies,” said James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co. “It’s not just winning the deal — that’s the easy part. It will be interesting to see how exactly they plan to leverage it.”

You can follow Ben Kew on Facebook, on Twitter at @ben_kew or email at ben@yiannopoulos.net

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