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Twitter’s live sports streaming rush quickens with baseball and hockey deals alongside its own sports show


By Seb Joseph | News editor

July 26, 2016 | 5 min read

Twitter’s efforts to bring more people to its platform by streaming live sports just got faster after it agreed to live-stream weekly out-of-market games from both its national baseball and hockey leagues alongside a nightly sports highlight show it will produce.

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Twitter’s live sports streaming rush quickens with Baseball and Hockey deals and will create its own sports show. / Twitter

It means both logged-in and logged-out users in North America will be able to watch those Major League Baseball (MJB) and National League Hockey (NHL) games that won’t be shown on other broadcast and cable networks in their local market, with a schedule set for later this year. Worldwide users will be able to access the MLB games, except in select international territories.

"Twitter has long been a great partner and platform for both baseball and hockey fans as they follow their favorite teams and players every day," said Kenny Gersh, MLBAM's executive vice president of business. "We know fans will embrace what this wide-ranging partnership brings – expanded and reliable access to live baseball and hockey and the introduction of Twitter's first daily live highlight show delivered intuitively to a platform where they're actively engaged with the games.”

Twitter has now convinced each of the big four sports in the US to stream games or related content, having previously inked deals with the NFL and NBA. While it has not announced which specific MLB or NHL it plans to stream, the company will stream the first Thursday night NFL games this coming season and its engagement with the NBA sees the introduction of a new weekly though won’t include actual games.

Alongside its burgeoning ties to these sports will sit a new nightly show called the ‘The Rally’ that Twitter will produce to provide highlights using Twitter-based data to identify live trending topics. It will combine “the production and editorial values of television with the speed and interactivity of digital media,” said Jason Coyle, president of 120 Sports, the sports centric mobile video company helping Twitter with the production.

“Twitter really is a natural fit for these sports, as 50% of all the platform’s TV conversations are focused on sports, meaning there’s already a captive audience and live broadcasts will only add to a deeper involvement for sports fans. Consumers also almost exclusively watch sports live, with 95% of total sports programme viewing happening in real time, Twitter will become a natural extension of this experience for fans," said Dror Ginzberg, co-founder and chief executive of Wochit.

“Expect to see the worth of global sports rights explode past its current total of £16 billion as sports increasingly look to social media platforms to become co-broadcasters with TV companies. In future, it might even put companies like Twitter on a possible path to outright rights holdings, and leading traditional broadcasters might face decline if they don’t respond.”

The deals are the latest in what is seemingly a test for Twitter to see whether live-sports can bring more people to the platform. The social network has refrained from going into any detail as to what its plans for sports content is, though it’s worth noting that Netflix, HBO, and Starz to name a few all started streaming content on a non-exclusive basis before becoming valuable businesses in their own right. Part of the value as many observers have been quick to highlight could come from the fact that Twitter allows real-time commenting on live events.

Up until, many of the strategies Twitter has employed to modify their business have struggled to get traction at scale including the introduction of features like Moments and extending its 140-character limit. With sports, the business is able to explore a fast-emerging area around the lucrative video market in a relatively low cost way. Financial details of the latest MLB and NHL deals have not been shared but it is reported to have paid $10m for the NFL rights, which is immaterial compared to the around $2bn of cash it is sitting on and the fact its on course to make $700m EBIDA this year.

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