Twitter nabs NFL streaming contract, while Yahoo Sports sticks to game-a-day strategy with MLB

Short-form social media site Twitter is going long on its video strategy, beating out a field of linebacker-sized contenders like Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) to win the rights to stream 10 of next season's NFL games. Twitter reportedly paid less than $10 million for the entire package, even though other OTT providers bid over $15 million for the rights, according to Re/code.

In the meantime, Yahoo, which also reportedly was in talks with the NFL to stream more of its games, is instead focusing its Sports vertical on its ongoing streaming strategy. The Web giant added Major League Baseball to its free, live-streamed Game of the Day programming slate. Yahoo also started offering games of the day during the latest National Hockey League season.

NFL games may not be entirely off the table for Yahoo: Re/code said that as a syndication partner with Twitter -- along with Google -- it may be able to stream some of the Twitter-licensed games. The NFL is currently exploring that possibility, the article said.

The two announcements -- one head-turning, the other almost routine -- illustrate the variety of strategies being employed in bringing live-streamed sports to online viewers.

While Yahoo has a dedicated platform to house its MLB game streams and plenty of related content, exactly how Twitter will present this season's NFL games isn't clear. It's a surprising move for a media format better known for user-shared game highlights. Now, instead of being a social accessory for sports fans, Twitter is positioning itself as a mainstream video provider.

The social media service built out its own video platform several months ago, and later integrated live mobile streaming via Periscope, the startup it acquired in March 2015. But monetizing the video stream has remained a sticking point for the service, and streaming long-form and live content such as pro ballgames could help boost revenues through ad sales.

Still, it's not necessarily a winning move for Twitter. The $10 million bidding price may have taken into account the fact that Twitter will be able to sell only a percentage of the ad inventory around the NFL games it streams. That's because it is likely rebroadcasting the game feeds from CBS and NBC, which both still have broadcasting rights to the NFL games -- and "they will own most of the digital ad inventory in their games, people familiar with the deal say," Re/code's Peter Kafka noted. Also, Verizon still holds the mobile rights to NFL games. Those factors could limit reach and revenue.

However, Twitter's Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto sees the deal and just the first of several new content relationships. "This is one element of a much broader strategy to provide the next generation of real-time content," said Noto in a Bloomberg article. Other live sports, political content, and entertainment may all be in the offing.

For more:
- see this Bloomberg story
- see this Re/code story
- see this Yahoo blog post

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