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Original Issue

Social Services

Streaming the league

NO SPORTS LEAGUE monetizes its product more successfully than the NFL, which last week announced that it had selected Twitter as its partner to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games in 2016. Here's the brilliance behind that move: Those rights have already been sold to broadcasters. CBS and NBC each air five TNF games, all of which also appear on the NFL Network. This gives the league three revenue sources through rights fees or advertising—broadcast (NBC/CBS), cable (NFL Network) and digital (Twitter)—for a package of games that aren't close to its best.

Bloomberg reported that Twitter, which will show the games free of charge, with no authentication required, paid around $10 million for a one-year deal—a bargain given other NFL rights packages. (Yahoo paid $17 million to stream a single Sunday game last year.) Why the low price?

The NFL sees Twitter as a unique means to expand globally; about 252 million of the platform's roughly 320 million users are outside the U.S. The league also noted Twitter's ability to provide an immersive experience, including pregame Periscope broadcasts and in-game highlights, in the context of an ongoing conversation.

For its part, Twitter gets valuable programming and much-needed buzz after being punished by Wall Street for stagnant user growth. It's a partnership with a lot of potential for both parties.