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Three things we liked (and disliked) about Twitter’s first take at streaming sports

Twitter tried live programming Wednesday. Here’s what we thought.

Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

Twitter partnered with Wimbledon on Wednesday to stream some live video coverage from the popular tennis tournament.

Twitter didn’t get to stream live match footage — ESPN holds those rights exclusively and isn’t handing them over — but it did stream live interviews and analysis, plus some highlights from the scene in London.

In short, it was our first look at live programming on Twitter, something we’ll soon see much more of given the company’s 10-game deal with the NFL to stream a handful of Thursday Night Football games later this fall.

And while Twitter described the product as “an extremely early and incomplete test experience” with plenty of improvements left to go, we spent some time tuning in and had a few initial thoughts. So while we don’t know what Twitter’s finished product will look like, here is what we thought worked, and didn’t work, from its first foray into live programming.

Twitter

What worked

  • You don’t need a cable subscription to watch what Twitter streams, which makes it both simple and affordable to tune into something you might otherwise miss. (Especially if you are a millennial who doesn’t pay for cable at all.)
  • You also don’t need a Twitter account to watch what Twitter streams, which may not be great for Twitter but it’s great for folks who just want to pop in and see what’s happening.
  • Twitter pinned the video feed to the top of the page and let users scroll through tweets without ever moving away from the stream. It also kept the tweets off the screen so the social content never blocked the actual feed. Periscope, in contrast, floats comments right over the video feed, which can be distracting at times.

What didn’t

  • The screen was too small. It’s the downside of keeping tweets completely separate from the stream — there’s only so much space on your phone or laptop screen. You could watch Wimbledon coverage full screen, but then the accompanying tweets aren’t visible. There must be a happy medium in there somewhere.
  • The stream of tweets wasn’t very good. Twitter essentially showed every tweet about Wimbledon in one massive feed that did not auto-populate, which meant you had to sift through stuff from the crazy people on Twitter. (Plus, it opens Twitter up to hashtag hijackers like this person who tweeted porn into the feed.) I imagine Twitter will ultimately build a curated stream of tweets from experts and relevant players once its NFL streams start, but it wasn’t super strong in this version.
  • People couldn’t find the link to the Wimbledon stream, which is not surprising considering Twitter didn’t promote it in any way. We expect you won’t have trouble finding links to its NFL streams; it’s just a matter of how Twitter goes about promoting it (push notifications, banners, etc.).

Yes, this was “an extremely early and incomplete test” of Twitter’s live product, which means our thoughts may not mean much. But it’s also a first glimpse at what Twitter wants to become: A digital streaming arm for the world’s biggest sports leagues and live events. Nailing this experience will be key, and Twitter has a way to go.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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