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Twitter wants to sell its NFL ad spots for more than $50 million

Twitter is pitching its NFL ad inventory .

Al Bello / Getty Images

Twitter paid $10 million back in April for the right to stream 10 of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games. Now it’s trying to make its money back.

Twitter’s top brass, including CEO Jack Dorsey and COO Adam Bain, is in the south of France this week at the annual Cannes Lions ad festival working to drum up business. On the list of things Twitter is selling: Ad packages linked to its NFL games.

These ads packages — which combine the ad inventory Twitter has around NFL highlights that it also sold last year, plus the NFL game footage it bought this year — are selling between $2 million and $8 million per advertiser, according to a person familiar with the deals. That range depends on the number of ads and whether or not they are shown during a game versus alongside other NFL content (more on that below).

Twitter wants to sell 10 to 15 of these packages, says Matt Derella, who runs North American sales for Twitter and is in charge of selling the NFL packages. Twitter has already sold about 60 percent of this ad inventory, he said. Derella said some marketers who bought ads from Twitter during last year’s NFL season, including Ford, Nestle and Anheuser-Busch, have signed for the games.

Here’s what Twitter is actually selling:

  • In-game ads: Twitter has a very limited number of commercial spots it can sell during the actual game. The NFL and its existing TV partners, NBC and CBS, will sell all of the game’s national TV segments. That leaves Twitter to sell the local ad spots; the company says it will be able to show different spots to different users based on its targeting data .
  • Pre-roll ads: Twitter will also sell pre-roll video ads ahead of NFL highlights for all NFL games, not just the Thursday night games, a batch of highlights it sold last year as well. The NFL is giving Twitter 90 highlights per week in 2016, up from 75 in 2015, Derella says. He declined to comment on deal terms for these pre-roll ad packages, but two sources tell Recode that Twitter made about $20 million selling four pre-roll ad packages last year at roughly $5 million a pop.
  • Periscope streams: The NFL will use Twitter’s livestreaming Periscope service to broadcast pregame analysis and player footage from the field before each of the 10 Thursday Night games. Twitter will let advertisers pay to sponsor these broadcasts and add branding to the video feed. It will be the first time Twitter has ever monetized an actual Periscope stream.

The $2 million to $8 million pricing range depends on the assortment of options each advertiser chooses. One source told Recode that it’s likely Twitter will bring in, at minimum, $50 million on the entire NFL deal, but possibly more.

What’s unclear is how much of that Twitter will get to keep. The company already paid $10 million just for the broadcast rights, but some of that revenue will need to go back to the NFL. Derella declined to comment on the terms of Twitter’s deal with the NFL. So did an NFL spokesperson.

What’s also unclear is what this whole broadcast will actually look like. Twitter will get the same NBC or CBS game feed that you can watch on TV, but has not unveiled how it will add a social component to the broadcast. Derella hinted that the game feed will be accompanied by a stream of live tweets from fans and/or experts.

Here’s how he described it in an interview.

"We’re going to marry the best of Twitter [with the NFL stream]. So that would be that live experience as it’s happening and that live conversation around Twitter. One flavor would be all the most authoritative analysts and players actually tweeting about the game. So that could be manually or algorithmically curated. Other users might just want the pure roar of the crowd and the unfiltered timeline. We’re going to experiment with what’s best."

Twitter’s challenge, of course, will be convincing users to look at tweets instead of at the game.

Update: We asked our Twitter followers if they'd actually tune in to watch NFL games through Twitter and a pretty sizable portion of you said you would! While certainly not scientific, that's good news for Twitter.

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