With two NFL games under Twitter’s (NYSE:TWTR) belt now, I’m reading far too many headlines hyping what it means for Twitter to be in the live streaming business. Phrases like “game changing,” “milestone,” and “make-or-break moment” have all been used to describe Twitter’s NFL stream. Many commenting about the stream act as if live video is a new kind of new technology breakthrough, with some even suggesting that “soon all NFL games will be broadcast this way.” While many want to talk about the quality of the stream, no one is talking about the user interface experience or the fact that Twitter can’t cover their licensing costs via any advertising model. What Twitter is doing with the NFL games is interesting, but it lacks engagement and is a loss leader for the company. There is nothing “game changing” about it.
The first NFL game on Twitter reached 243,000 simultaneous users and 2.3M total viewers. But looking further at the data, the average viewing time was only 22 minutes. Most who turned into Twitter didn’t stick around. Many like myself tuned into only to see what the game would look like and how Twitter would handle live video within their platform. For week two, Twitter reached 2.2M total viewers and had 347,000 simultaneous users, but the NFL isn’t saying what the average viewing time was. Twitter and the NFL are also counting a viewer as anyone who watched a “minimum of three seconds with that video being 100% in view”, which is a very short metric to be using.
Unfortunately, the whole NFL experience on Twitter was a failure in what Twitter is supposed to be about – engagement. Watching the stream in full screen, on any device, felt like I was watching the game via any other app. Twitter didn’t overlay tweets in any way, some commercial breaks had no ads shown at all and tweets weren’t curated. Far too many tweets added nothing to the game with comments like “Jets Stink.”