On the heels of a contentious bidding war, the National Football League (NFL) has selected Twitter to stream Thursday Night Football games live this season.
Twitter’s global audience of 800 million registered and non-registered users will be able to stream the 10 games this fall for free and without authentication, according to the NFL. Games can be viewed on mobile devices, PCs, and connected TVs. At the same time, Thursday Night Football will be broadcast on NBC, CBS, and simulcast on the NFL Network cable channel. (In addition to Thursday Night Football, the NFL also broadcasts games on Sundays and Mondays.)
The partnership also calls for in-game highlights to be showcased by Twitter, as well as pre-game Periscope broadcasts from players and teams, the NFL said. Bloomberg, which was first to report the news, said that Twitter would likely package the games inside its Moments feature, where streams could be complemented by commentary and reactions via Tweets, Vines, and Periscopes.
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Twitter reportedly beat out a handful of high-profile competitors to become the NFL’s exclusive streaming partner, including Verizon, Yahoo, Amazon, and Facebook — which dropped out of the bidding war last week.
“Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season.” He also noted that additional eyeballs would be a boon for advertisers.
For 10-year-old Twitter, winning the streaming rights for Thursday Night Football — a rare mainstay in a dwindling field of appointment television — is a major coup, especially as the platform seeks to broaden its user scope beyond an unbudging core audience of journalists, celebrities, and politicians.
It is unknown what Twitter paid for the Thursday Night Football rights, but last season, Yahoo paid a whopping $17 million to stream a single NFL game from London — the first time the league had ever broken digital ground. This year, CBS and NBC paid $45 million per game, according to Bloomberg.
Twitter and the NFL previously partnered together on Twitter’s Amplify advertising program, which allows publishers like the NFL to run pre-roll ads against premium clips.