The National Football League (NFL) has selected Twitter as its exclusive partner to deliver a live OTT digital stream of Thursday Night Football to a global audience across devices and for free during the course of the 2016 NFL Regular Season. Twitter will stream the 10 Thursday Night Football games broadcast by NBC and CBS, which will also be simulcast on NFL Network, securing the league’s ‘Tri-Cast’ distribution model of broadcast (NBC/CBS), cable (NFL Network), and digital (Twitter).
Partners since 2013 through the Twitter Amplify programme, the NFL and Twitter will provide free, live streaming video of Thursday Night Football without authentication to the over 800 Million registered and non-registered users worldwide on the Twitter platform on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and connected TVs.
In addition to live streaming video of NFL action, the partnership includes in-game highlights from TNF as well as pre-game Periscope broadcasts from players and teams, giving fans an immersive experience before, during and after games.
With this partnership, the NFL says it has again extended its digital presence, making the most valuable content in sports and entertainment available across multiple digital platforms free for all users.
“Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure Thursday Night Football is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season. This agreement also provides additional reach for those brands advertising with our broadcast partners.”
“This is about transforming the fan experience with football. People watch NFL games with Twitter today,” said Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO. “Now they’ll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights.”
Last season, the NFL broke new digital ground in a partnership with Yahoo! to deliver a free, global live stream of a regular season NFL game, the first time users could access the NFL’s premium content worldwide, without authentication.
When the Buffalo Bills faced off against the Jacksonville Jaguars from London’s Wembley Stadium on October 25, 2015, football fans streamed over 480 million minutes of the game, with 33 per cent of streams coming in internationally, across 185 countries worldwide.
About Thursday Night Football
Thursday Night Football started in 2006 with an eight game schedule exclusively on NFL Network. By 2012, Thursday Night Football had grown to a 13-game schedule exclusively on NFL Network, where it remained through the 2013 season. For both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, CBS partnered with NFL Network to present an expanded 16-game Thursday Night Football schedule.
In February of 2016, the NFL announced that both CBS and NBC would broadcast five Thursday Night Football games, growing the package to 10 broadcast games in 2016 and 2017 from eight in 2014 and 2015. All Thursday Night Football broadcast games will continue to be simulcast on NFL Network. NFL Network will also exclusively televise an eight-game schedule of regular season games comprised of Thursday Night Football, late-season games on Saturday, and additional games to be determined.
Both CBS and NBC will produce Thursday Night Football with their lead broadcasters and production teams with CBS and NFL Network televising the first half of the TNF schedule and NBC and NFL Network televising the second half.
For the 16 games of the 2015 schedule, Thursday Night Football on CBS and NFL Network (and over-the-air stations) averaged a 7.9 HH rating and 13.0M viewers, up +59 per cent and +61 per cent respectively from 2013 when the games were solely on NFL Network. The 2015 season was the most-watched and highest-rated Thursday Night Football season ever.
Popularity of NFL Games
NFL content has never been more popular across the media landscape. According to the Nielsen Company, 199 million people tuned into the 2015 NFL regular season representing 78 percent of all television homes and 67 percent of potential viewers in the US NFL games accounted for the top 25 and 46 of the 50 most-watched TV shows among all programming in 2015.
Dror Ginzberg, Co-Founder and CEO of video creation platform Wochit, suggested the agreement represented “a landmark moment” for traditional broadcasters around the world. “Despite the NFL being the most popular sport in America and TV ad during the Super Bowl costing a record $5 million for thirty seconds of airtime, the NFL has decided to take this bold and unprecedented step to stream games live online,” he noted.
“The NFL dipped its toe into online streaming last year with Yahoo screening one game last season, which successfully yielded 15.2 million viewers and 33.6 million video streams. Clearly this was a test case for a much larger roll out and builds upon a previous deal reached between the two last year to include more content online.”
“The agreement points to an increasing trend of sports rights being diversified and how people can view this content across platforms, especially in America. Yahoo Sports also announced this week that it will stream daily a baseball game, to build upon its existing deals to stream basketball, ice hockey and golf.”
“The big question is not if European sports will follow suit, but when. The English Premier League will be looking enviously at the NFL’s deal and seeking to follow this example, especially as adults in the UK watch more than five hours of video per day, making video the single most popular media activity online.”
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