In just over 36 hours, Twitter is setting out to prove its live event capabilities. The company will livestream its first Thursday Night Football game of the National Football League’s (NFL) 2016 regular season. To say it’s a historic evening for Twitter doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. It’ll be something critics, analysts, and stockholders will look at as a measure of Twitter’s strategic plan, especially since it has spent resources locking up partnerships with other sports leagues.
Earlier this year, efforts were made to stress-test Twitter’s livestreaming capabilities outside of its Periscope app. Users were able to not only watch the Wimbledon tennis tournament, but also both the Republican and Democratic national conventions (in collaboration with CBS). But those cases weren’t actively promoted and were difficult for users to find organically. What’s more, the livestreams felt hidden away from what Twitter really was.
The time for testing is over, however, and today the company is revealing how it sees an immersive second-screen experience taking place. Fans are no longer restricted to Twitter’s website to consume live videos — it has launched a dedicated livestreaming apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and the Xbox One. These will broadcast NFL games, along with games from the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and Pac 12 Networks. They will also stream financial news from Cheddar and Bloomberg News, and even content from Twitter’s Vine and Periscope apps.
The apps are free to download and are available in select markets around the world, depending on which device you’re using. Twitter’s Apple TV app can be accessed worldwide through the App Store for Apple TV (4th generation), while Twitter for Xbox One is available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S. Twitter’s Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick app are only available to those in the U.S. and the U.K. You won’t need to have a Twitter account or even a cable or satellite subscription to access these livestreams, which will be in high definition.
For those with an Apple TV, Twitter is offering a special experience: Not only will you get live premium video, you’ll also receive tweeted video clips in a side-by-side offering — think instant replay curated by other fans.
“These devices will bring Twitter’s livestreaming video experience to life on the TV screen,” said Anthony Noto, chief financial officer at Twitter. “Twitter has always been a great complement to TV, and now fans can enjoy even more premium video with live Tweets — and the best content on Twitter — right from their TVs. We’re excited to introduce this new experience to people, without requiring a paywall or having to log in to Twitter.”
Reports of apps for set-top boxes first surfaced in August, and as a second-screen experience, it will certainly be easier to watch sports games on a TV than crammed around a computer monitor. Twitter is betting on this to realize the future for the company that chief executive Jack Dorsey has promised. During a conference call following Twitter’s first quarter earnings, Dorsey said “it’s not just about showing a live event, it’s also hosting a conversation…”
This isn’t the first time that Twitter has released apps for set-top boxes. One of the first apps to be a part of the Apple TV App Store was Periscope, which gives people access to certain live video broadcasts. But the introduction of an official Twitter app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and the Xbox One presents additional live offerings, along with the 140-character conversations you’ve come to expect.
Twitter’s new app lets you watch entire games or get highlights, in the style of its Moments offering. It also lets you enact a view that will show you tweets posted about the event you’re watching. If you want to contribute to the conversation, you’ll likely still have to post a tweet using Twitter’s web client or mobile app, instead of commenting through the set-top box.
If you don’t have one of the supported devices, it’s likely that you’ll still be able to view NFL, NBA, MLB, and other events right on Twitter’s website and mobile apps. Noto recently posted that the company was working on a permanent page where you can find streaming live events.
Twitter’s test begins this Thursday and will continue for the next 10 weeks, as it livestreams the following NFL games:
- September 15: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
- September 22: Houston Texans at New England Patriots
- October 6: Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
- October 13: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers
- October 20: Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers
- November 17: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
- December 1: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings
- December 8: Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
- December 15: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
- December 22: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Twitter is facing the challenge of reinvigorating its users and motivating them to remain active on the platform, while also fighting the tough battle of getting new users on board. The company is seeing slow growth, gaining 5 million new users in Q1 2016 and 3 million the following quarter. It now counts 313 million monthly active users, which certainly pales in comparison to other social networks, such as Facebook, with its 1.71 billion monthly active users. But each service provides different value, so it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.
Nevertheless, Twitter is pursuing a vision in which video plays a prominent role. A clear sign was the company’s elevation of Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour to Dorsey’s management team. Another sign was Dorsey’s remarks that Twitter has been all about live content “for 10 years.” One could also posit that with premium video content on its network, Twitter can increase advertising revenue by targeting larger brands and end up having a very successful quarter.