The NFL: Twitter’s Kingmaker? — Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

MIT Sloan Lecturer Ben Shields

From TechCrunch

The NFL has a distinguished history of successful partnerships with upstart media companies. When it became the home of Sunday Night Football in 1987, ESPN’s unprecedented growth accelerated. Then, in 1993, the NFL sold its NFC Sunday afternoon package to Fox, firmly establishing it as the fourth major broadcast network in the U.S. In turn, both deals expanded the NFL’s reach and significantly increased its media rights revenue.

This fall the NFL is working with another new media partner: Twitter. In a $10 million deal, Twitter is live streaming for free 10 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games. It is part of Twitter’s overall strategy of making live events the centerpiece of its platform. For its part, the NFL reportedly passed on higher bidders for the digital TNF package to test new distribution models with a trusted partner.

Twitter faces some inherent limitations with the deal: it is only one year, the TNF broadcast is simulcast on CBS (or NBC) and the NFL Network and it can only sell a small percentage of the ad inventory. However, Twitter can position itself for its own long-term transformative NFL moment if the following happens this season.

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Ben Shields is a Lecturer in Managerial Communication at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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