Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Twitter Near Deals for More Live Events as NFL Ads Outperform

  • Company has sold half of ad space for Thursday-night games
  • More live sporting events, political debates coming ‘soon’

Twitter Inc. is close to announcing deals to stream more live events, from sporting matches to political debates, after experiencing higher-than-expected demand for advertising for National Football League games it plans to air this season.

“You’ll see other announcements around premium content from us soon,” said Kayvon Beykpour, co-founder of Periscope, the live-streaming app that Twitter acquired in 2015 and has now embedded in the micro-blogging platform.

Twitter has sold about 50 percent of its NFL ad inventory and is meeting with clients this week at the Cannes Lions festival in France as it seeks to sell the remainder, according to a spokesman. Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Nestle SA’s DiGornio pizza and Sony Pictures Entertainment have already signed up, he said.

Twitter agreed in April to stream 10 NFL games live on Thursday nights for free during the 2016 season. Deals for other live events are close and will be announced within weeks, Beykpour said.

Such deals will move Twitter from the periphery to the center of the action during live events, Beykpour said in an interview at the festival on Wednesday.

“We’ve always been a second screen for people to interact with when they are watching TV,” Beykpour said. Twitter “should also be a first screen,” he said.

Revenue at Twitter is growing slower than expected, even as the company adds new products for social media advertising. With content deals and live streaming, the company will be able to tap into advertisers’ online video budgets, competing with YouTube and Hulu. 

Twitter earlier this week extended the time limit for regular users’ videos, to 140 seconds, aiming to encourage more video sharing generally. The company also took steps to reduce time restrictions and add advertisements ahead of videos on Vine, its video-only application.

Periscope, founded by 27-year-old Beykpour in 2014, is helping Twitter to drive usage among younger users who want more live video and content, and the brands who follow those users. Periscope isn’t interested in creating content itself, he said.

The company has its marketing message, #GoLive, plastered on its beachfront space at Cannes -- underscoring the company’s commitment to the effort to land more premium programming.

“Tapping into live NFL content on Twitter, along with their influential moviegoing audience, is a natural extension for us and paves the way for many more real-time possibilities,” said Elias Plishner, executive vice president of digital marketing at Sony Pictures Entertainment, in an e-mail.

Brands using Periscope include BMW, which unveiled its I3 automobile and other models on the app, as well as General Electric Co., which screened a drone tour of the company’s wind turbines to show how they work.

“These aren’t ads, but example of businesses that are using Periscope to show a different perspective,” Beykpour said.

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