clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

This is what it was like to watch the NFL on Twitter

Spoiler: It was fine.

New York Jets v Buffalo Bills Tom Szczerbowski / Getty

Who’s ready for a little Friday morning quarterbacking?

Recode watched the NFL’s Thursday night football game between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets last night on Twitter, for free. It was the first time Twitter had streamed an NFL game, and marked what was essentially its coming out party after a summer of testing various livestreams for content much less popular than NFL football games.

Twitter streamed the game in a number of locations: Its mobile app; at; on some partner sites, like; and on Apple TV. We tried them, and they were all remarkably similar.

How did Twitter fare in its NFL debut? Here are our thoughts.

The Twitter App

Kurt: I was surprised at how easy it was to jump into the game on a mobile phone. I didn’t need to download a new app or authenticate with my pay-TV provider, two major obstacles for me (and I imagine others) whenever I consider streaming something to my phone. I watched the first half of the game on my commute home from work — including a grocery store run — which is something I will probably do every week now but never did before.

Kurt Wagner / Recode

One major positive for Twitter: I didn’t come across a single nasty tweet during the whole game. The feed was curated by both humans and an algorithm, so nasty tweets should have been weeded out, but Twitter can be a brutal place. They did a nice job of keeping it clean, especially after a less-than-stellar experience during its Wimbledon stream earlier this year.

My biggest beef with this whole thing was that it didn’t feel very Twitter-y. At all. I may as well have been watching on the CBS app or the NFL Network app. Twitter could have added in-game polls. It could have added stats on the most-mentioned players, or the most-tweeted plays of the game.

The feed of tweets, while clean of abusive garbage, was full of random strangers I didn’t know sharing the most obvious football critiques you can image. Why not create a feed of NFL experts and former players and celebrities? I don’t care what Joe in Ohio thinks of the game. I want to hear from other players in the league, or at the very least, journalists and media members who can offer up some analysis. Plus, when you clicked on a user’s account or a hashtag, it took you out of the feed. So interacting with the things you saw was difficult.

I thought the stream was simple. I didn’t find it to be unique.

Twitter on Apple TV

Peter: I turned on my Apple TV, I clicked on the Twitter app, I clicked again on the box with the game, and then I was watching the game. That's pretty cool! I didn't have to tell Twitter who my cable company was, and I didn't have to enter my Twitter credentials, either. I just got to watch the game, and it looked pretty good, most of the time. Definitely as good as watching it at a bar. Good job, Twitter.

Then there was some small shit, but it was the small shit you always get when you stream live sports on your TV: The stream lagged the TV broadcast by a minute or more; the stream occasionally had trouble rendering, so the picture would occasionally get a bit jagged; the stream didn't have the same ads as the regular broadcast, or it didn't have ads at all — just a screen from Twitter telling you there were going to be more games from Twitter.

Whatever. No big deal. Remember — it's free!

The real problem with watching the game on Twitter TV was a more existential one: If you were watching the game on Apple TV, why not watch it on regular TV instead?

CBS isn't a cable TV network, it's broadcast network, so anyone can watch it for free. If you're going to watch the game on Twitter TV instead of real TV, and you're going to put up with the (small) shit involved in doing that, there should be something on Twitter TV that makes it better than real TV. Or at least different.

But the NFL on Twitter TV is almost exactly the same as the NFL on real TV. The default option is a full-screen re-broadcast of the CBS feed, so there's zero difference there.

If you click a button, that screen shrinks, and the right side of your screen becomes a Twitter feed with commentary about the game. But it's not a screen filled with commentary from your Twitter friends. And the commentary doesn't come from the most interesting people Twitter can find, like NFL players, coaches, GMs, reporters, etc. Instead, it's just run-of-the-mill stupid Twitter.

Nothing wrong with that! But nothing interesting, either.

So if I want to see interesting Twitter commentary about the game, I have to watch the game on one screen and then periodically look down on my phone, where I have a curated Twitter stream. Like I do when I watch real TV.

Again, this isn't a reason not to watch the game on Twitter TV. But it does make me wonder what Twitter is going to get out of this $10 million experiment. I get the "turn on Twitter and watch interesting video" part of it. But it seems like there should be a second part, where Twitter shows off what's cool about the rest of Twitter. That didn't happen last night.

This article originally appeared on