It’s Time to Accept that Twitter is the Next ESPN


It has been the case for sometime anyway, so we all need to come to grips with the fact that Twitter is the next big total sports network.

While Wall Street has struggled to embrace the prospects of what Twitter can be because of its lack of growth, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has remained focused on the company’s vision to focus on the live event space. Anthony Noto, by far one of the most underrated hires in tech this year, has led the charge in the sports space for Twitter securing the rights to be the National Football League’s streaming partnership. Per a report from the NY Times, Twitter agreed to sell just a portion of advertising opportunities as means of securing the deal that will allow them access to the 13 million viewers over 10 games that the NFL averaged last year.

"“Having that live programming every night when sports are playing — with no paywall, no logging in and directly from the source — that’s key to us,” – Twitter CFO Anthony Noto as told to the NY Times."

In addition to the NFL, Twitter also secured non-gaming rights to NBA content (first reported here) giving their mobile platform live content to stream and for fans to consume. They also have deals with MLB, NHL and Major League Soccer, among other leagues, and also live streamed Wimbledon just a few weeks ago.

Securing content is a similar strategy to how ESPN built its titanic empire beginning in the 1970s. After the founders built the cable service technology, they needed to fill the network with programming. That allowed them the ability to land league and NCAA television rights deals that they would monopolize for decades making a fortune in advertising revenue. However, the game changer with Twitter, as it has been in most industries, is the power of the mobile device and Twitter knows it. The mobile device is in all respects the “new” television and that is the exact reason ESPN has seen dramatic drops in their subscriptions also known as cord cutting.

ESPN recently countered Twitter’s aggressive content moves by partnering with BAM Tech, the MLB’s digital streaming technology that has been exclusively broadcasting MLB content since its inception. It is a sign that there is real concern about Twitter’s reach and access into the content market. Mobile devices are expected to grow another 7 percent this year and by 2020 total worldwide mobile devices have been projected to be anywhere from 1.9 billion to 5 billion depending on the data.

Smart phones, super computers, mobile devices, whatever you want to call them, have had ability to play video and now live video streaming is at a point where it is ready to step forward and live up to the hype. When you combine video content with the immediate means of hot take commentary that ESPN itself created, you have the perfect one-stop shop environment for sports for the DIY generation. With Twitter securing sports content deals in 2016 it can only increase their value potentially making it a sustainable company or one ripe for an expensive acquisition – an idea that ESPN should seriously think about themselves.