Last month I wrote about the NFL’s plan to court cord-cutters by allowing Facebook to stream next season’s Thursday Night Football (TNF) games. Well, I got the cord-cutter part right.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced plans to partner with Twitter, not Facebook, in order to improve the viewing experience of its tech-savvy fans.
“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,” Goodell said via a press release.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took things one step further, promising the partnership would transform the way fans currently watch football. But aside from shrinking the size of the viewer’s screen, what’s really in store for fans?
For starters, Thursday Night Football (or at least the ten games Twitter will stream) can now be viewed for free anywhere there’s a WiFi connection or a cell phone signal. There’s no need for a subscription to a specific carrier or cable company. In fact, viewers won’t even be required to have a Twitter account. And aside from the game itself, fans watching via Twitter will also have access to “in-game highlights from TNF as well as pre-game Periscope broadcasts from players and teams.”
As for where TNF will live within Twitter, no one seems to know for sure. But according to Wired, a source within the company said that access to the game will be no more than a click or two away and may even end up on the Twitter homepage.
So what about the viewing experience? In an recent interview with SI’s Peter King, NFL executive vice president of media Brian Rolapp claimed users watching the game on their laptop will have the option of switching between full screen or splitting the screen with a Twitter newsfeed in order to read or make comments about the game.
In the same interview Twitter CFO Anthony Noto said that viewers watching the game on a smart phone were just a click away from viewing Twitter commentary. That’s good news for anyone who isn’t near a television, but it’s hard to see the advantage for anyone who is. Having to go back and forth between the game and your Twitter feed seems like a hassle compared to simply watching the game on TV with your phone in hand.
On the technical end, Twitter is still working out the details of how it will stream the games. But the answer to that question could have major implications, especially for fans looking to watch a game on a smart phone without WiFi. Three-plus hours of streaming video is sure to wreak havoc on the wallets of anyone without an unlimited data plan.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about how the NFL-Twitter partnership will pan out. But what we do know is that good or bad, the final product will have major implications for the future of live sporting events.