If Twitter can stream games live now, with some Thursday NFL games in 2016 and Olympic sports in the Pac-12 starting this school year, what possibilities lie ahead
The College Football Playoff championship game streaming live on YouTube? The Final Four on Facebook with the ability to comment on the games under the video display on your wall?
In the midst of declining cable and satellite television subscribers, mostly due to the increased number of viewers streaming events, movies, TV shows, etc., over the Internet, Twitter has seized the opportunity to boost its user growth by live streaming of athletic events.
In turn, the NFL and its Thursday night television partners CBS and NBC gain more exposure via Twitter, which won the bidding war against Amazon and Verizon to stream 10 games live at reportedly $1 million per game.
The Pac-12 deal with Twitter, announced by commissioner Larry Scott at least week’s football media days for the conference, will include more than 150 live sporting events involving Olympic sports as part of the Pac-12 Plus venture. Pac-12 Plus will air school-produced events during the 2016-17 season including soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, ice hockey and other sports live on Twitter.
With the way social media has evolved over the last five to six years, it is obvious that college athletics will become more available on streaming platforms in the future. What the Pac-12 is doing with Twitter is just a start.
More than likely, the failed negotiations with DirecTV to broadcast the Pac-12 Networks will become moot down the road with viewers able to access live broadcasts and programming on their phones, tablets and computers. Viewers will also be able to access feeds on an application on smart TVs and set top boxes.
It will happen because conferences will reap the financial benefits from more exposure for their advertisers on social media. What we know from the deal between the NFL and Twitter should extend to big-time college athletics in the future.
CBS and NBC bid $450 million for rights to televise 10 Thursday night games (the NFL Network has rights to the other six). CBS and NBC have their own digital rights and they reportedly will own most of the ad revenue. Twitter will rebroadcast the NBC and CBS feeds and will have rights to sell a small portion of the ads associated with the game. All three entities (CBS, NBC and Twitter) can market to advertisers that their product will be noticed by millions worldwide during convenient live streaming.
This same scenario can be a boon for college athletics with more money from networks and social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube because of the enhanced reach worldwide for advertisers.
One other aspect to consider: People currently can post live video displays of games from their television sets on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Periscope, etc., without the conferences and programs receiving any kickback from that. Of course, the quality of the content is not the same as a direct, potentially high-definition telecast but the fact remains that somebody without a cable or satellite subscription can view some of a game on live video posted on social media.
The NCAA has a strict policy that prevents fans and media from live-streaming a game. How that can always be enforced is a significant question with either the thousands of fans at the event or the millions at home watching on television.
Conferences and programs offering live broadcasts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., can alleviate that concern, which will become more of an issue with live streaming becoming more prevalent and harder to regulate.
Scott should be commended for leading the way for conferences to embrace the benefits of live social media exposure. He also announced at the Pac-12 football media days that with Facebook Live, fans will have “unique behind-the-scenes access and exciting game-day content around the Pac-12 Networks’ 35 football games.”
“These (social media) partnerships point toward a future where content produced by Pac-12 Networks and our universities is more valuable than ever,” Scott said. “We will reach more fans than ever, through these innovative platforms, delivering more than just convenient viewing but also richer, more connected experience for our current fans and our future fans.”
Scott, ever the businessman, knows the Pac-12 and all of college athletics, will reap the financial benefits of partnering with social media as that platform continues to evolve with more active users worldwide.
This year, it’s at least 150 Pac-12 Olympic sports shown on Twitter live. Next year, and the year after that, and so on … the possibilities seem endless as do the financial rewards for the conferences and the networks involved.
This forecast has much more optimism than what happened with ESPN and its television rights with the Big Ten recently. The network was outbid by Fox for its primary media rights, including carrying the league’s conference football championship and men’s basketball tournament. ESPN resorted to negotiating for secondary rights, limited to carrying regular-season Big Ten games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 with reduced exposure on ESPNU.
It was first feared that ESPN may not pay the Big Ten $200 million for the secondary rights because of budget cuts in light of dwindling cable and satellite subscribers.
Live social media exposure offers hope for networks and viewers. All eyes will be on how live Thursday night NFL games and Pac-12’s Olympic sports will fare on Twitter. The anticipation itself shows how popular this venture could become.