Andy Roddick might not be involved in his native US Open directly, but the former world number one has lent his experience of the game to punditry. What’s been unconventional about Roddick’s approach, though, is that his insight into the tournament has been streamed exclusively on Twitter, via Periscope. The move is part of Twitter’s wider game plan to both promote and monetize video content, particularly content related to sporting events.
Roddick’s streams, which feature analysis, commentary, and Q&A sessions, are sponsored by Chase Bank, who told SportTechie the deal was an effort to keep up with the ‘change in how people will watch sports’ in a new generation of live video. For Roddick, he can earn money by watching and commenting on his favorite sport from the comfort of his own home, and for Chase, the bank gets to have its Twitter handle present across all of the tennis star’s video output. The advent of live streaming has the capacity to bring fans much closer to the sport, and Roddick’s commentary is just the beginning.
Twitter is one of the companies most committed to driving development in how the average fan engages with their sport. In April, Twitter announced that it had secured a huge deal with the NFL to live stream its Thursday Night Football for the coming season, direct to the social media site and without a paywall. Further deals with the NHL and MLB would suggest that Twitter sees this as the future - it outbid both Verizon and Amazon for the rights to the Thursday football games, and Facebook were also said to be interested. A deal announced in July to present two of the NBA’s new hoops-related shows makes Twitter the sole provider of live streams for all four major US sports leagues.
Kenny Gersh, MLBAM Executive VP, told Variety: ’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. 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.’ This is exactly what Twitter offers live sport: engagement. The site acts as a second-screen discussion forum during live sports events even without the direct connection, and the ability to discuss a game in the form of tweets alongside a quality live stream will be an enticing one to the more vocal sports fan.
But Twitter isn’t stopping at sports; the social media giant is courting bloggers from the likes of Youtube and Facebook by offering solutions to teething problems with both hosts. The news emerged just last month that Twitter was expanding its advertising program to include videos made by users and not just major publishers - video ads play before users’ videos should they nominate the tweet for them. According to the Wall Street Journal, ‘creators will keep 70% of the revenue generated from ads sold against their content, with Twitter taking a 30% cut.’ Creators also maintain the right to monetize the same content on different platforms - it’s a boon for Twitter too, though, as it will now have a sea of ad space that was previously unavailable.
The move comes just as it has emerged that some Youtube stars are disgruntled with the video hosting site for its occasionally strange removal of advertising from videos due to content that isn’t ‘advertiser friendly.’ CNBC use the example of Philip DeFranco, a youtube star with 4.6 million subscribers, who had ads removed from some of his videos due to ‘graphic content or excessive strong language.’ Obviously, this sensitivity to profanity leads to revenue loss for both the blogger and the host. ’I love YouTube,’ DeFranco said. ‘Obviously it looks like they're well within their rights to do this. It's their d*** website. It is also very f****** concerning.’ Twitter could, feasibly, snatch these dissatisfied bloggers by offering them competitive advertising rates - Twitter’s videos are not quite as versatile as Youtube’s with regards to embedding and sharing, but the site boasts far better interaction with followers than Youtube can offer with subscribers.
Twitter is moving into video from all angles, from streaming live sports to encouraging bloggers to publish on the site. Whether it will be enough to arrest the social media network’s dwindling user base and stagnant growth remains to be seen, but cornering the sports market would be a fantastic place to start. Facebook and Google may be dominant in terms of ads and video content, but Twitter isn’t going down without a fight.