Twitter, long suffering from an identity crisis, could be facing down disaster in the near future if it doesn’t manage to get user growth on the upswing. As part of their push to accomplish that, they have inked deals with the NFL to stream live games in the past, along with some pre and post game content. Now, reports state that they are in talks with multiple major sports authorities, including the MLS and NBA, as well as the Turner network, to buy out rights to stream more live sports content of a similar nature, though exactly what they’re after was not revealed.
While Twitter is talking to a lot of the right people about scoring streaming rights, it may not come down to a question of money, but rather one of conflicts of interest. Since Twitter can only make money from advertising on whatever they stream, they pull in a bit less than a subscription model like a traditional cable provider or Netflix. With that being the case, they likely won’t be able to pay quite as much for the streaming rights and will likely give less of a payout on a percentage basis as well, while simultaneously cannibalizing views of the same content from more profitable channels. This means that big networks like ESPN have little reason to even give Twitter the time of day, let alone actually ink a deal. Nonetheless, Twitter has managed to nab streaming rights for a decent amount of sports leagues and networks, and even has their own esports league.
Ted Leonsis, owner in the NBA and NHL, believes that tech companies like Twitter, who lack a baseline subscription model, aren’t as well suited to streaming deals like what Twitter is seeking as their subscription-charging peers are, and even says that he would be more willing to work with a company like Amazon than with Twitter. Twitter may be able to bring sports networks and leagues around by taking a similar approach to a recent deal with Wimbledon, wherein they broadcast pregame and postgame content, interviews and the like, and ended up gaining Wimbledon a bit more of an audience instead of eating into their existing watcher base. With no word on exactly how Twitter will approach the deal, only time will tell just how things will go.