It may well.
Twitter is embarking on a journey to reinvent itself as the go-to platform for live sports and apparently an agreement to partner with the MLS is nearing…
IS THIS A GAME CHANGER?
It was their definitive move winning the rights to stream live NFL matches which – although unexpected given more traditional suitors – first demonstrated Twitter’s ambition for live streaming. And they followed it with a flurry of tie-ups to really set their stall out.
Starting with the NBA, they negotiated a content partnership for the upcoming season, and followed quickly with live streaming deals for MLB and the NHL to round out convincing all four major US sports leagues that handing over their content rights was the right thing to do.
This was on top of extending beyond traditional sport with an agreement to be the broadcast partner of an eSports league, and having already live–streamed this years’ Wimbledon Championship on the platform.
AND THEN, FOOTBALL
They first experimented with football launching a highlights package during Euro 2016, before Twitter made their move into football more permanent by teaming-up with Sky to host footage of the 2016-17 Premier League season in real-time through the @SkyFootball Twitter handle.
And now the football foray goes on with them pursuing arrangements to acquire MLS’s content rights.
BUT IS IT RIGHT FOR MLS?
What this is not about is bringing fans to Twitter’s platform; these ventures evidence a commitment to bring better content to a bigger audience and take sports broadcasting to a new level.
Live streaming is clearly the future, and while as it stands is an incomplete test, it is a great experiment for the league to explore new ways to offer a growing fan base a better fan experience.
Twitter stats already show how the 2014 World Cup allowed the MLS to evolve – with MLS conversations on Twitter up 64% since then.
So while MLS may not know where their future fan will come from, they know that the trends being seen now will hold – any future fan will be more digital, continue to be more mobile in the way they consume media, and more social in how they engage with content.
Live streaming is a natural progression for the league, and one which is less a question of whether fans will embrace it, but rather:
WHAT COULD FANS EXPECT FROM IT?
Users got a first glimpse of what live-streaming on Twitter could be like during Wimbledon with footage pinned to the top of a page and paired with the relevant conversation around the event below it. That’s how the basic delivery of content could work, but where it gets interesting is in the actual content itself.
For example, the NBA deal centers on live original programming – fans will see the introduction of a new weekly NBA pregame show and other content such as behind-the-scenes footage and “Day In The Life Of” player takeovers, created specifically for integration with Twitter conversations.
And it is this level of closeness fans are able to reach on Twitter by having two-way-acknowledged-dialogue with a sports team/ person/ league that is such an integral part of the conversation today.
So the lure for MLS may be in exploiting the community aspect of Twitter to become a natural extension of a live match experience. Or it could be simple upgrades to functionality on the platform allowing fans to ‘unlock’ exclusive content (such as interviews) through retweets or replies for example.
Either way, any philosophy MLS adopts for live streaming should be one of using the channel to propel soccer further up the American sporting agenda.
AS THERE IS NO DOUBTING..
.. the future of watching sports is online.
And while Twitter’s revenue struggles are well reported, it is their play into live streaming sports which could not only save it but feels like relevant inventiveness for sports in general rather than a faceless initiative to drive their own user growth.
For MLS, it is one which takes it to a new level as it could prove to be not just an additional opportunity for fans to consume the game, but a place fans come to get more from it than without it.
As the old adage goes, “if content is king, distribution is queen”. So while this may just be the start for the format, it could be the beginning of something much bigger for the content.