One of the places where you talk about TV wants to become the latest place you watch TV.
Twitter unveiled its ambitious pivot to exclusive video content during its first ever NewFronts presentation (the Internet's version of broadcast TV's upfronts) on Monday afternoon. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter's Natalie Jarvey, Twitter announced partnerships with major sports leagues (the NFL, MLB, WNBA, and PGA) and media companies (BuzzFeed, The Verge, Bloomberg) to develop and distribute original programming live on the social network's timeline.
Twitter also has a 3-hour, weekly MLB show planned & will live stream in 360-degrees at The Players Championship— Natalie Jarvey (@natjarv) May 1, 2017
Also included among these projects is a 24-hour live sports network — complete with tweet integration — and a new original entertainment series from former NBC boss Ben Silverman.
Late last week, BuzzFeed reported that Twitter's goal is to acquire or create enough content to broadcast live 24 hours a day, every day. The company — which continues to lose money and has increasingly faced criticisms over its handling of harassment — has reportedly already aired over 800 hours of content this year in preparation for the NewFronts announcement. In 2015, Twitter scored the rights to the NFL's Thursday Night Football package for $10 million, but recently lost out to Amazon in the latest round of negotiations.
On one hand, Twitter's vision for an integrated video and conversation platform makes sense. The platform has long been embraced by Hollywood and news organizations as the hub of conversation, particularly for live events like sports, award shows and most recently, elections.
Twitter's initial forays into video-driven packages for events like Thursday Night Football (3.5 million average viewers per BuzzFeed) and the Oscars (6.4 million viewers including pre- and post-shows) have been successes, as much as anyone can determine a success with these types of data points. For a company looking to attract advertisers, these are solid numbers.
And they just keep coming: NFL will create live programming for Twitter. Not quite TNF but still a comprehensive deal— Natalie Jarvey (@natjarv) May 1, 2017
On the other hand, Twitter is far from the first digital media company to move to video or "original content." YouTube and Facebook made this pivot sooner, with far more established goodwill among their users, Snapchat and Instagram continue to gain users and there's tens of thousands of hours of original content elsewhere on the web and TV.
Meanwhile, the viewership numbers for short-form videos on social networks should be met with a healthy bit of skepticism. A brief or unintentional glance while you skim through your timeline shouldn't count as a "view," but they often do. Facebook has already apologized for publicizing inflated viewership data.
Only time will tell if this latest pivot is a smart one for Twitter, but it's hard to imagine too many people want to watch TV on Twitter.