In the past week, Twitter live streamed HIGHLY varied content, from Salesforce’s Dreamforce event, led by ringmaster and CEO, Marc Benioff, to the NFL game between the 49ers and the Cardinals. Sunday night it was the presidential debate, which broke the record with over 17 million Tweets sent over the 90-minute political ride (which may have also required a vomit bag at times).
Over the weekend the debate continued on which company is best suited to get into serious M&A talks with Jack Dorsey’s social baby. Salesforce was considered to be a contender on the basis of Twitter’s ability to boost Benioff’s philanthropic efforts or to complement Salesforce client’s ability to enhance their quality of customer service.
It was Disney’s potential bid that seemed the most interesting, beyond Dorsey’s position on Disney’s board. “What Disney has to think about is what is its place in a post cord-cutting world,” James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co., told Bloobmberg’s Alex Sherman and Sarah Frier. “They are investing in technology for distribution — and this would give them the platform to reach audiences around the world.”
One also has to consider the state of flux ESPN has been in with the massive drop in cable subscription revenue. Could live streaming sports on Twitter be part of the answer?
The Bloomberg analysis was shot down by Recode’s Michael Kovac piece, “I can’t believe I have to type this, but here you go,” where the writer makes a very strong, valid argument, one that I haven’t seen as of yet.
“Once Disney takes control over Twitter, how can Twitter possibly work with any other content company — the kind Twitter needs if it wants to be a video company? If you want Time Warner, or Viacom, or even BuzzFeed to send you their stuff, you can’t do it if you’re owned by a major rival. That is, you can’t anymore.”
Add all the other TV and film companies, even Netflix, to the list, and that’s a lot of companies either entering or currently in the content streaming game today, let alone new ones that enter the scene in another three to five years.
Kovac also echoes other’s observation, including Bloomberg’s, that Twitter under Disney would have to figure out the troll situation, which wouldn’t be easy and could result in Disney tarnishing “its pristine brand.”
Aside from the trolls and potential content competitors shying away from Twitter under the helm of Disney, how would the home to the greatest place on earth potentially restrict the type of content streamed on Twitter?
In a Recode Media podcast interview, “Why I Left ESPN for Fox Sports 1,” between host Peter Kafka and talk sports broadcaster, Skip Bayless, Kafka paraphrases Bayless, “’Now that I’m coming to Fox, I can do things I couldn’t do on ESPN,’” asking him to elaborate on the difference between the two sports networks.
“We’re not owned by Walt Disney. Again, that’s Mickey and Goofy,” Bayless answered. Referring to Fox, “This is The Simpsons and Family Guy. It’s different here. The boundaries, the out of bounds are the same here, but we can go deeper.” His example of this expanded freedom was the topic of race that discussed the shooting of an unarmed black man, Terence Crutcher, by a Tulsa police officer, during a recent show. Bayless states he may not have taken on that subject to the level he did had he been on the air with his former network, “I would have been very skittish on ESPN, especially after the last couple of years, because we were on probation so often.”
How would last night’s Presidential Debate, which streamed live on Twitter as Donald Trump spewed his toxic rhetoric, have fared in Disney’s eyes?
Disney’s $1 billion dollar investment in BAM Tech moved Disney closer to their direct-to-consumer streaming play. Not only was it considerably cheaper than the expected price for Twitter, but it seems to be a safer bet as well.
Google also dropped out as one of the other main contenders, as did Apple, so there’s no clear next move for Twitter or who else may come to call as a potential bidder. Everyone’s just guessing at this point…while waiting for the stock price and market valuation to drop even further.
In the meantime, Bloomberg speculates that Twitter will continue to emphasize its live video strategy, “It may give people without Twitter accounts a new way to use the service while allowing the company to share revenue on the video ads.”
Other live streaming content sources, from festivals to conferences airing from around the globe, would also make sense for Twitter and its content clients. The event promoter could then enable their brand sponsors with the ability to extend their reach to remote viewers. Sponsors could compare data sets between their own Twitter campaigns and those that take place during their sponsored live events for succinct audience targeting, insights, and future promotion aimed at that remote viewer to attend next year’s event in person.
At DMEXCO this year, Josh McFarland, Twitter’s vice president of product, stated that TV viewers were 30 percent more emotionally connected to a show if they Tweeted while watching it. If said brand were to develop branded content that tied to and aligned with the millions watching a football game or Coachella on Twitter, that engagement has the potential for an even greater level of emotional connection.
Live sports streaming on Twitter really is a match made in heaven, offering the ability to watch the game while following and partaking in the live Tweets, side by side. Brands that traditionally advertise on cable networks would also get new opportunities to reach new audiences that may be dropping off of cable subscriptions, which for ESPN, has been happening in the millions each year.
Currently Twitter has only tipped their toe into live streaming sports with the NFL deal, with more sports programming planned from deals cut with the NBA, NHL, MLB, and others. There’s also sports that take place outside the US, often accessible only from a cable subscription or not at all, including the numerous European football leagues, cricket, and rugby, that may, over time, make their way to the micro-blogging platform.
UPDATE (October 12, 2016): Twitter, Victoria Racing Club announce live stream of 2016 Emirates Melbourne Cup, which is said to be the first Twitter live streaming deal company has announced outside of United States.
I for one am cheering for the Premier League, which I expect would be a supreme viewing experience in comparison to NBC Sports (especially after Twitter’s acquisition of Magic Pony’s technology that enhances video streaming performance, even if your internet speed sucks), the network that holds the league’s licensing rights in the U.S. but whose NBCSN streaming platform has been dubbed “the agony of defeat” by some viewers, including myself.