The National Football League (NFL) has revealed the broadcast performance of the first Thursday Night Football game of the 2016 season. It said that the game was seen by a total of 48.1 million viewers on television, but the more significant statistic is around Twitter, which kicked off its live video strategy by streaming the game. For the game alone, Twitter reached 2.1 million viewers.
Twitter has been very clear about its strategy to turn itself around, and a big part of that centers around live video. The company has formed partnerships with not only the NFL — Twitter beat out Facebook for the Thursday Night Football series — but other major sports leagues to livestream events on its platform.
People who watched the Buffalo Bills take on the New York Jets through Twitter reported they were pleasantly surprised by the quality and the performance of the program. However, did Twitter really move the needle in terms of viewership? The average audience watching the game across the service’s properties was 243,000, with each viewer consuming 22 minutes of game action. Compare that to television, where the game was seen by an average of 15.4 million — can Twitter call this a win?
Twitter seemed to have done everything right, including making sure that the game was easily watchable no matter what device you were using — the web, mobile, or even an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, or Xbox One. Viewers didn’t even need to have a Twitter account to watch the stream.
By comparison, if you look at the last time an NFL game was livestreamed — which also involved Buffalo — Yahoo pulled in 15.2 million unique viewers last October, with more than 460 million total minutes of video consumed. At the time, Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer said that her company and the NFL would provide “the ultimate football experience — with digital availability, designed for the modern fan.”
This is pretty much the same thing that Twitter is doing. So now that the company has a benchmark from which to assess its performance, what will it do to generate more viewership? It still has a few more Thursday Night Football games to livestream.
A Twitter spokesperson provided VentureBeat this statement: “It was exciting to see how the experience played out on Twitter with how fans reacted to the first [Thursday night] football live stream on our platform.”
Updated as of 3:22 p.m. Pacific on Friday: Updated with statement from Twitter.