Starting this fall, NFL fans will be able to watch the Thursday games via Twitter. The announcement was made by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on his Twitter feed in his first Tweet in 19 months. The games will appear on Twitter’s mobile and desktop apps, as well as on video game consoles that use Twitter apps, such as Microsoft’s Xbox. The rights package also includes in-game highlights of the Thursday games and pregame Periscope broadcasts from players and teams.
The agreement between the NFL and Twitter is a one year deal, although the exact terms of the deal were not disclosed. The league says that the games will be free and that viewers do not have to be registered Twitter users. Thursday night games will continue to be shown on CBS, NBC, and the NFL Network as well.
The NFL is currently the nation’s largest sports league, earning roughly $13 billion in annual revenue. For decades, the league has relied on billions of dollars of revenue from television networks that broadcast games for free over the air, or from cable and satellite networks. Now, it wants to explore opportunities for new revenue from digital and international businesses. The partnership with Twitter allows the league to stream games to the more than 180 countries where the N.F.L. does not have major broadcast partners.
The league experimented with live-streaming last season in a partnership with Yahoo. Yahoo paid about $20 million for the rights to show a Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game played in London. Both sides viewed the Yahoo trial as a success. The game attracted more than 15.2 million unique users, nearly five times more than the previous record for a streaming audience.
Twitter has long been the online forum of choice for sports fans, journalists and athletes on game day and the company is eager to advance further into the sports world to attract new users. Twitter has grown to hundreds of millions of regular users, but user growth was flat at the end of 2015, compared to the third quarter of the year, at 320 million monthly visitors.