clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Why the NFL won’t save Twitter

Ad revenue could decline next quarter, even with ad money from streaming games.

Houston Texans v Denver Broncos Dustin Bradford / Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

This is a bad stretch for Twitter: Its sales process fizzled before it ever started. A new round of layoffs may be in the works. And analysts have low expectations for this week’s Q3 earnings report.

Okay. But what about Q4? Because the end of the year is when companies that make their money from advertising really shine.

Nope. No luck then either, says Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak.

He thinks Twitter’s ad problems will accelerate next quarter, and the company will see its ad revenue decline for the first time.

Wait a minute. What about Twitter’s big push to become a video company, which it kicked off by showing NFL games?

Well, that won’t hurt, Nowak says. But it’s not going to be a huge plus, either. He figures those games generated an extra $13 million or so for Twitter, and that most of that will show up in Q4.

But that’s not meaningful for a company that does a couple billion in ad sales each year. Without that NFL money, Twitter’s core ad business, on its own properties, would grow 1 percent next quarter, Nowak says.

Add in the NFL ads and it bumps up to 3 percent. Not a needle-mover.

Again, Twitter’s ad problem is a reflection of Twitter’s growth problem, which is a reflection of Twitter’s business model problem.

Lots of people — like me and probably you* — love Twitter. That’s why it has more than 300 million users. But that’s not nearly big enough to support the ad business Twitter wants to have, which is supposed to compete with Facebook and Google. It’s just not big enough.

Meanwhile, since we’re here: Anyone know what happened to Twitter’s video audience during the third presidential debate last week?

Twitter put out numbers two days after the second debate, noting that its livestreaming audience had grown from the first debate, even though TV audiences had shrunk. That was interesting.

But the TV audience for the third debate grew again, and we haven’t heard anything from Twitter about its audience. Maybe they’re saving those numbers for earnings this week?

* Don’t tell anyone, but Recode gets a good chunk of its readers from Twitter, which runs counter to the way most news sites work. Recode readers = Twitter users. We’re (kinda) all in this together, people.

This article originally appeared on