Twitter has reportedly cinched a deal with the NFL to stream next year's Thursday Night Football games online, according to separate reports from Recode and Bloomberg. The league started looking for a buyer for these rights earlier this year, with tech companies including Apple, Amazon, and Google expected to put in bids. In February, the NFL announced that both CBS and NBC had secured TV rights to the Thursday Night Football games, as well as the option of streaming the content to paying cable subscribers. However, global streaming rights were still up for grabs, with Twitter now seeming to have won that battle.
Yahoo had the first exclusive NFL streams last year
Bloomberg reports that the social media site beat out rival bids from Yahoo, Verizon, Amazon, and Facebook. Last October, Yahoo became the first digital outlet to stream an NFL game, shelling out a reported $20 million for rights to a game between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The free-to-view contest attracted a high number of viewers — some 15.2 million, according to the NFL — but not many of these stayed for the whole show. The average viewership per minute was around 2.36 million; far below the 10 million to 20 million viewers that televised games tend to attract.
Despite these caveats (and others), offering global online streaming for football games is a content play with a lot of potential. And it makes sense for Twitter, which is still trying to attract new users to its service, and establish its brands as a place for people to react to and talk about live events. Twitter previously won the right to distribute NFL highlights on its service, but expanding this to cover whole games could attract an even bigger audience — and maybe even get them tweeting, too.