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Most of Twitter’s streaming video deals are not must-see TV

The upside: It’s still getting more video.

Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Video is easy to get. TV — at least, must-see TV — is hard.

Just ask Twitter.

Ever since Twitter announced in April that it won digital streaming rights to 10 of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games, it’s been on a hunt for more of the same. It hasn’t found anything yet.

You might have a different idea, if you only looked at the headlines Twitter has generated this month about a series of new livestreaming deals: First, it announced a deal with Wimbledon, then Bloomberg, CBS and the Pac 12 Network. Today, it announced a deal with the NBA.

It sounds impressive, like Twitter is assembling its own version of a cable network, delivered for free, over the internet, to all its users.

Instead, it’s delivering something else: 10 NFL games, and then a bunch of fringe content — leftover stuff that might fill some time if you’re bored, but certainly won’t drive mainstream audiences like an NFL game would.

Twitter’s deal with Wimbledon, for example, didn’t include any live match footage. Its NBA deal doesn’t include any live game broadcasts, either, and its Pac-12 Network package has water polo, ice hockey and wrestling — but no college football or basketball games.

Meanwhile, its CBS streaming deal, which granted Twitter live coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, was made of content from CBSN, the network’s free digital news service —- not the same stuff you see on prime-time TV.

The upside: It’s still video. And if this is what Twitter can get for now, it’s not the worst thing: It gives Twitter’s tech and ad teams a chance to prove that they’re up to the task of delivering this stuff to users, and delivering those eyeballs to marketers.

If it can do that, perhaps it will get more valuable streams down the line. Twitter doesn’t see itself as a TV competitor. Instead, it’s pitching itself as a way for TV networks to reach audiences they’re missing out on. Here’s how Twitter CFO Anthony Noto described the company’s position to Recode back in April:

“A significant percentage of our audience is 18- to 24-year-olds and 18- to 34-year-olds, and those are the cohorts that have never signed up for pay television or are deciding not to continue with pay television. We want to be their digital distribution arm to a younger mobile, global audience.”

Twitter, meanwhile, wants these streams to drive new users to its platform because its user base is no longer growing. Ever walk past a bar with a chalkboard outside advertising free NFL football? That’s how the NFL games are supposed to work for Twitter.

Announcing you have live college water polo and tennis? Not nearly as tantalizing.

This article originally appeared on

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