NFL on Twitter… in the UK

Earlier this year, Twitter signed a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games. They paid around $10m, and the NFL noted that theirs wasn’t the highest offer on the table.

I’m not going to get into the whys and wherefores of Twitter’s strategy. For the NFL, it’s about reaching harder to get audiences – “millennials.” Twitter was looking to grow its platform, and the NFL, in the US, might seem a sensible option.

Now it’s worth noting that the Thursday night games are perhaps the least desired packages, but that they’re also broadcast on the NFL Network, and shared between broadcast networks NBC and CBS. So these games are widely available over the air.

When the deal was announced, it was noted that Twitter had global rights to these games, and so, because I was up late last Thursday, I thought I’d see what was available. I use Twitter extensively, but I don’t consider it a video streaming platform. How would I go about watching the game?

Well it wasn’t at all obvious. The game was being shown by Sky Sports in the UK, but I wanted to see it on my phone. I went to Moments, the lightning bolt icon that I never normally touch (I’m afraid Moments is only marginally less useful than Facebook’s recently launched sub-sub-eBay Marketplace “feature.”)

There was no sign of the NFL, even under Sports which looked like was regionalised for UK tastes.

Perhaps it wasn’t really available?

Finally I searched “NFL” and that led me to a Tweet which seemed to have embedded video. After briefly being led in circles being redirected to a website, with the site then suggesting I open the Twitter app I’d just come from, I opened the stream and it seemed to work well. I was served with the straight NBC/NFL Network feed, and the coverage was good. But I was curious. What would happen in the ad breaks?

Well I didn’t get to see US ads. Instead, I got some promos for the NFL Shop, and some generic Twitter videos. And then I got them again. And again. It was awful. There were maybe five videos, and they looped and looped, often multiple times in the same break.

If you don’t watch NFL, then you won’t know quite how many breaks there are. But a game that’s played for an hour lasts a good three or more hours on TV. And much of that is commercial time.

One way or another, Twitter wasn’t serving UK specific ads, so we got the same cruddy filler endlessly. It was unbearable. It didn’t help that one of the videos featured Obama, Clinton and Cameron, and urged us to #Vote. For whom, or when was unclear. Post Trump’s win, I think I might have retired that video.

Anyway, the timings of evening games in the US means that worrying about watching live NFL coverage isn’t high on my European agenda. But if Twitter is going to get into video broadcasting seriously, then they need to work out a localisation strategy.