Thursday Night Football attracts new proposals

After a successful first year, the NFL is looking to sell streaming rights to Thursday Night Football again. According to close sources, there are at least four major suitors—Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon.

These companies have each submitted proposals to the NFL to stream the games. The same four platforms were interested in purchasing the rights last year, when the NFL settled on Twitter’s $10 million bid for the ten games.

Twitter claimed to draw in 3.5 million viewers for each broadcast last year, while CBS—the major broadcast network for the games—averaged about 15 million viewers per game. Twitter’s Thursday Night Football deal was the highest profile case of streaming sports on social media last year—a concept many leagues and events have jumped on since then.

After the success and buzz of Thursday Night Football on Twitter, countless other leagues have pounced on the idea. The NBA and NHL made deals with Twitter to live-stream out-of-market games, and the NBA inked a deal to produce original content to stream on Twitter.

But Facebook also got in on the action. The MLS recently entered into a deal to stream 22 games live on Facebook, and Mexico’s Liga MX will stream 46 games in the United States on Facebook. Over in Europe, Barcelona also made a deal to stream their Friday evening games on Facebook.

And those are just the major deals. Twitter has also made deals to broadcast the National Lacrosse League and the PGA Tour, and they’ve previously streamed Wimbledon. In France, Six Nations games were recently broadcast on Twitter.

YouTube has also made deals—to stream the entire Copa Del Rey season and specific Champions League games. Additionally, their new paid service, Youtube TV, will include regional and national sports channels. Amazon is also looking to enter the world of sports streaming.

Streaming sporting events has gone from a cool one-off to the undeniable future of sports broadcasting, and for good reason. As technology has advanced, entertainment has evolved to become heavily on-demand. Sports are the one area of entertainment that hasn’t done the same.

Because of the live nature of sports, viewers have to make an “appointment to watch”—something quite rare in entertainment, even with the most popular shows. Games don’t hold the same power or draw when you’re watching after the fact, since scores and news are also broadcast across platforms.

When platforms like Facebook and Twitter stream sports, it allows viewers to get sports relatively on-demand—something younger demographics and cord-cutters value.

Viewers often don’t have the time to make this “appointment to view” in the midst of busy lives. Live streaming gives the easy access they desire, since younger demographics are likely already on social media, and the portability to view on-the-move.

But besides its value to viewers, streaming sports is also valuable to social networks. Live streaming spikes the concentration of users, and if companies can monetise this, they stand to gain more than just viewers.

One way to do this is through advertising. The skew toward younger demographics and cord-cutters means that advertising space is valuable, since these are two highly-sought types of consumers. It can prove challenging, since live in-stream advertising has not always been previously used by these companies, but if they prove capable, they benefit from ad revenue.

With such a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive industry, it’s unclear what the next step will be in live streaming sports. For now, social media platforms are racing to claim Thursday Night Football for their own, outmuscle the opposition and triumph in this innovative, yet already saturated market. 

About author

Ellen Larson
Ellen Larson 22 posts

Ellen is an intern for Snack Media and contributor to Digital Sport. Follow her on Twitter @Ellen_Larson.

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