Twitter NFL Feed Will Only Offer 'Low-Level Streaming': NeuLion

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Twitter's Thursday Night Football (TNF) games will feature “low-level streaming” that will act as a promotional tool for NFL Game Pass, says Chris Wagner, executive vice president and co-founder of NeuLion.

NeuLion provides the digital backbone to NFL Game Pass in the U.S. and abroad. The $99 per year service includes DVR controls, interactive score graphics, a video-on-demand archive of matches, 30-minute condensed match highlights, and exclusive camera angles. U.S. subscribers can listen to live audio streams of regular season and post-season games, while international subscribers can stream live video.

“Twitter's TNF will be low-level streaming,” says Wagner. “There will be nothing compared to the interactivity of NFL Game Pass where viewers can watch four games at the same time picture-in-picture. It's the difference between a Formula 1 car and a Ford.”

In April, Twitter paid $10 million to broadcast 10 games from the NFL’s regular season, and will include in-game highlights and live pre-game interviews on Periscope. 

Not surprisingly, the NFL doesn't agree with NeuLion's characterization of the stream. "The fan experience is a core factor in decisions we make at the NFL, whether it’s experiences at the stadium or those delivered through various media platforms,." said an NFL Media spokesperson. "The NFL and our partners take great pride in ensuring our games are delivered with highest standards of quality. Viewers watching Thursday Night Football through our streaming partnership with Twitter will have a first-rate experience, just as they do on Game Pass. There will be nothing 'low-level' about it."

Four of Twitter's TNF games will be shown on broadcast TV in the U.S. by NBC and CBS, while the remaining six will air on the NFL Network. All ten will live stream outside the U.S. on Game Pass.

“For the casual NFL fan it will be great," Wagner says. "We see it as a great marketing opportunity for a whole new set of fans who might want to sign up for NFL Game Pass.”

Twitter has 320 million active users, but claims a global audience of 800 million due to people who use the service without an account.

According to video encoder Telestream, Twitter is trying to turn a second screen experience into a first screen experience. Telestream Wirecast supports streaming to Twitter, Facebook Live, Twitch, and Ustream.

“It remains to be seen how many people will turn to Twitter to watch TV,” says Shawn Carnahan, CTO for Telestream. “It’s an experiment. The issue is the trade-off between image quality for an enhanced user experience. Twitter is betting that the enhanced social experience of watching NFL football on their platform will, for some, outweigh the benefits of a traditional TV viewing experience. Twitter is not aiming to be just a second screen; they are changing the viewing experience. For some this may be worth it. Time will tell.”

Carnahan noted that viewers don't need social networks to find major sporting events. "Organizations can use Facebook and Twitter to advertise their branded live streaming channel including the schedule of upcoming games and the fact that the channel exists—Facebook and Twitter do not get that ad revenue or visibility—the branded channel does. But they can use Facebook and Twitter to get people to tune in to their channel."

[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated that the NFL had no comment on the quality of the game to be streamed on Twitter.]

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