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Can TV save Twitter? Twitter says it’s early.

Twitter’s livestreaming strategy was the topic of the moment on the company’s Q3 earnings call Thursday.

Kurt Wagner / Recode

Twitter reported its Q3 earnings bright and early Thursday morning and — in a change of pace from earnings past — left Wall Street feeling pretty good about the company’s outlook despite announcing a new round of layoffs.

One of the major areas of focus during Twitter’s earnings call: The company’s live video strategy, specifically the early results from streaming a handful of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games.

As you might imagine, Twitter had nothing but positive things to share, including a new stat that up to 15 percent of those tuning into these NFL contests on Twitter don’t actually have Twitter accounts. That means it’s a small-but-new audience for the company.

Twitter also says its football streams are luring in users who aren’t Twitter diehards, “light users,” as CFO Anthony Noto referred to them on the earnings call. Noto says these light users are spending more time watching the NFL games than Twitter’s medium or heavy users. Twitter was targeting an audience of 1 million to 3 million unique viewers per game, which it has already surpassed (albeit barely), Noto added.

In other words: Things are going great!

But if Twitter thinks that TV, or what it calls “live,” will help it get more users and better ads, it’ll have to grapple with challenges TV executives face every day: Programming is hard and expensive. Acquiring the rights to more high-end TV content, for example, is incredibly pricey. When an analyst asked how Twitter might go about acquiring these kinds of expensive video rights, CEO Jack Dorsey primarily talked about other products instead. When he did mention live, it was to highlight why Twitter is doing it, not how.

“We’ve seen people watch TV with Twitter for 10 years and comment about it, which makes whatever they’re watching a lot more interesting, a lot more entertaining and a lot more insightful,” Dorsey said. “We’re looking at that and trying to remove friction in every way that we can.”

Even if Twitter won’t say how it plans to improve its streaming lineup, acquiring the rights to important TV events like NFL games will be the key. And even then, costly content like the NFL may not help Twitter.

Interestingly, Noto said that this seemingly never-ending election cycle has had “no noticeable impact” on Twitter’s core user growth, with one exception: When Twitter streamed the must-see presidential debates.

“We did benefit meaningfully on the particular days that we had the live debates and integrated product of that curated timeline,” he said, but added, and this is a key acknowledgement, “We really need to have a debate every day on Twitter for it to meaningfully improve our metrics on a quarterly basis. And that’s where we’re headed.”

So big, important TV moments can make a difference for Twitter. How it will acquire those moments is still up in the air.

In the meantime, what has helped Twitter’s user growth are two other products: Better push notifications and its new algorithmic timeline.

Essentially, Twitter’s product is getting smarter and better at knowing what you want to see, says Dorsey. And that’s the key focus going forward.

“We’re focused on adding more machine learning and artificial intelligence to everything that we do,” Dorsey said. “The biggest areas of focus are where people spend most of their time, which is the home timeline and notifications.”

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