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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 24, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsFustor’s Fumbles

Social media broadcasts are the future of watching sports

Ever since I became an avid Twitter user a few years ago, I’ve used it to follow along during sports broadcasts on TV. For most of my life, I found myself bored halfway through games, and I’d sometimes resort to changing the channel to reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond when I could no longer bear the timeouts and commercial breaks.

Even in a high-intensity event like the Superbowl or NBA Finals, I found myself searching for other things to do. That changed when Twitter came along. Twitter brought a platform for instant analysis beyond the musings of the broadcasters.

Naturally, when I heard the news that Twitter partnered with CBS and the NFL to stream Thursday night games, I was ecstatic. Finally, a way to share gifs, fight with random idiots and watch the game all on one screen.

The first broadcast on Twitter brought an average audience of 243,000 viewers to watch the New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 16. The stream did manage to reach 2.3 million viewers throughout the night, however. While those figures look miniscule in comparison to the game’s average viewership of 15.4 million on CBS and NFL Network, the Wall Street Journal noted it was a general success in reviews from fans.

One week later, Twitter saw its average viewership increase by 34 percent to 327,000 viewers during the New England Patriots victory over the Houston Texans on Sept. 21. Couple that with Twitter’s broadcasts of the presidential debates, and Twitter, along with other social media platforms like Facebook, are increasingly looking like the true answer for cord-cutters looking to escape the grip of cable companies.

While the NFL is having success in broadcasts, it begs the question: when will the NBA and MLB join aboard. Twitter paid $10 million for the rights to broadcasts 10 thursday night NFL games this season, but that figure could secure it the rights to many more NBA and MLB games. Twitter will first have to figure out what it wants to be as a platform going forward, and likely find a buyer, but once that’s settled – it can be the leading live sports streaming platform.

With NBA fans among the most active on Twitter, NBA broadcasts on the platform would likely have great success.  But that’s the reality of the modern day NBA. It’s going to be successful no matter what. Basketball is the cool sport in 2016, mainly because there’s very little risk of serious head injuries like in the NFL, it’s fast paced compared to MLB and it has many of the most popular athletes in the world.

MLB, on the other hand, has been under much scrutiny in recent years for its lacking support from young fans. Streaming games on Twitter and Facebook could change that. Bringing the game outside of the conversation of the broadcasters, and into the constant feed of comments could bring new life to the discourse around the sport.

The NFL’s early success on Twitter is likely a sign that other sports will soon follow. For now, it’s just a matter of how long.