Twitter to stream Buffalo Bills-NY Jets game

(Note: This story is adapted from one first published April 10, 2016.)

Beginning with the Buffalo Bills-New York Jets game, Twitter will stream the National Football League's Thursday night games live.

It's a fresh effort by the struggling social media company to increase engagement and advertising revenue as growth among users has slowed.

In a statement, the NFL says the streams will be free, and won't require viewers to authenticate through a cable subscription to watch. The NFL is trying to cross the generational divide to reach younger fans and other households who don't own televisions and mostly watch sports on the Internet while boosting revenue by selling streaming rights to games separately.

To view the game, you can either go to the Moments section of Twitter's mobile app or visit tnf.twitter.com.

The NFL has streamed individual games, but this marks the first full-season streaming deal. CBS and NBC pay $450 million for the rights to broadcast the Thursday night games. Verizon has the mobile rights.

"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," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said the NFL deal is "a way for Twitter to attract and engage Twitter and Periscope users, and generate advertising revenues."

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter downplayed the significance of the deal, calling it "a prestige move, not necessarily a sound business move."

"Not many people watch (Thursday Night Football), fewer will watch via Twitter," he said. "Break-even at best, and other than the media attention, not really all that meaningful."

According to Bloomberg, which first reported the deal in April, Twitter was competing with big names in tech, including Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo, which streamed last year's game between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

As part of the deal, Twitter will host in-game highlights from the Thursday night games as well as pre-game broadcast through Twitter's live streaming app Periscope.

"People watch NFL games with Twitter today," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement. "Now they'll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights."

Twitter has worked with the NFL since 2013, partnering on the social network's Amplify program, where the NFL can capture key moments from games and quickly share them on Twitter. Last year, the NFL reached a multi-year deal with Twitter to include more content, including archival video, game recaps and top plays.

This isn't the first time the NFL has experimented with unique approaches to delivering highlights or other football content to fans. Last year, the league partnered with Snapchat to let users participate in a global Live Story, sharing their experiences from NFL stadiums.

Follow Brett Molina on Twitter at @brettmolina23 and Jessica Guynn at @jguynn.


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