Twitter’s live streaming of the NFL was perfect – now if others would only catch up

We’ve talked for weeks about Twitter’s coverage of ten Thursday night NFL games, and up until now it’s all been speculative. Hypothetical analysis of a potential feat of exclusive online streaming.

But now that the first game has actually happened, we’ve seen the approach Twitter has followed by now. And it was pretty good, in the end.

For one thing, it was a good game. In many ways, that’s like sunshine on parade day. Success in terms of how well Twitter streamed the game shouldn’t rely on whether or not the game was entertaining. But it did make everything feel slightly better.

The feed, however, is the most important part. It’s how well the audience can stream the video, and whether or not they can actually enjoy the spectacle of the game as much as they could have done by sitting on their sofas and watching on TV.

“Overall, it was a high quality feed. I was on horrible hotel Wi-Fi for part of it. It was still working very well when viewed,” said Ian Schafer, founder and CEO of Deep Focus told The Drum.

“Actually, as I was looking at the Twitter comments underneath the video, there were more people complaining about their cable service than Twitter’s stream.”

And perhaps that’s the most important takeaway from the whole endeavour: as brilliant as our ideas may be, and as brilliant as our smart technology may be, it may not quite me smart enough.


We live in an era where our technology is – seemingly – improving by the second. Things get better and faster, more reliable, and that’s why online streaming has become so popular, so widespread. It feels only natural that the rights to sporting events should be taken off traditional broadcasters and given to those streaming it online. They not only provide access to the game on mobile or on laptops, but also on connected TVs and TV streaming solutions like Apple TV and Chromecast. It’s possible to stream through your TV these days.

Yet the thing holding back the advancement here is perhaps the advancement of the internet service providers themselves. Complaining about your provider whilst watching live TV isn’t something that usually happens. When your TV goes down, you know there’s something dreadfully wrong, but that people are more than likely working to fix a fault that is, presumably, affecting everyone.

At some point, internet services will surely become this reliable. And hopefully that day isn’t too far away. But at the moment, everyone knows what it feels like to have a dropped connection every now and then. And perhaps that’s the biggest challenge for the likes of Twitter who are looking to stream live sport.

There are others jumping on the bandwagon, too. It’s one thing having on-demand content, you can watch TV shows at any point, really. But live sport will always remain “live”, people won’t want to watch that on catchup. Not unless they’re doing some serious analysis of an already-finished game.

And so, will we have to wait to get TV quality in a broadcast that’s being streamed live? The question, up until now, was whether or not people would choose to stream over watching on their TVs. Now that you can stream whilst watching on your sofa, that question moves to being one of reliability.

The streaming of live sport is here to stay, there’s no doubt about that. But people surely won’t stand for dropped connections and bad quality streams. Twitter is providing perfect quality for the job, but it’s up to your internet whether you see it or not.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 831 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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