At first NewFronts, Twitter announces 14 new live streaming partnerships

BuzzFeed, Cheddar, MLB, the WNBA, the NFL and Bloomberg are among the content partners helping transform the platform into a content destination.

Twitter used its first-ever NewFronts presentation to deliver a message so concise it could fit into a tweet: The future of the platform lies in original streaming content, with a little social media on the site.

Twitter announced 14 new live streaming partnerships on Monday that will bring hundreds of hours of real-time original programming to the network, an effort to bring the company out of its live-content slump, including an extension with the NFL.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was joined onstage by Twitter COO Anthony Noto, CMO Leslie Berland and Matthew Derella, global VP of client solutions, to present the upcoming original content, which includes sports, news and entertainment.

"We want to be the first place that anyone hears of anything that's going on that matters to them," said CEO Jack Dorsey said at the event, "the first place where people hear of what matters. That is our focus, and that is what we will work so hard to deliver."

Since Twitter kicked off its first livestream partnership with the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" last year, the platform has launched 40 similar deals with major sports leagues and media companies. Last month, media outlets including Recode announced that the social network lost its NFL deal to Amazon, but tonight, Twitter clarified that it's still working with the NFL on live content programming, just not "Thursday Night Football." And Twitter isn't sitting out of other games. In fact, it's stretching its live mentality to other leagues.  

Seven of the 14 new deals incorporate sports, and four come directly from sports leagues: the NFL will have a daily show; the WNBA will live-stream weekly games for the next three seasons; MLB will air a three-hour weekly program on top of its weekly games and the PGA Tour will add 360-degree coverage along with its existing live games with Nike as the first sponsor. There will also be two new shows native to the platform: "Stadium" will be a 24/7 linear experience featuring live games, collegiate events and sport highlights just like a TV program, and "The Players' Tribune: Verify" will be a live show, hosted by Derek Jeter, in which athletes will answer questions from fans. Esports will live-stream tournaments and have 1,500 hours of online games.

Live news is another area in which Twitter is investing heavily, with new partnerships with Bloomberg Media, The Verge, BuzzFeed News and Cheddar. The Verge show "Circuit Breaker" will appear once a week and offer reviews of gadgets on the market; BuzzFeed will have "MorningFeed," a morning show covering current events and memes, with Wendy's signed on as the first partner; and Cheddar's "Opening Bell" show will stream live from the New York Stock Exchange.

Twitter's most ambitious news effort is its partnership with Bloomberg Media. The network will host an exclusive live news program from the global financial news outlet around the clock. The yet-to-be-named channel will be entirely controlled by Bloomberg and is slated for a fall debut.

"It is going to be focused on the most important news for an intelligent audience around the globe, and it's going to be broader in focus than our existing network," Bloomberg Media's chief executive officer Justin Smith told the Wall Street Journal ahead of Twitter's NewFronts.

So far, the news has Twitter investors happy. As of 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Twitter shares were up 5.83 percent, no small feat after Twitter stock lost 30 percent of its value in 2016.

Finally, Twitter is partnering with entertainment companies Live Nation, IMG Fashion, Propagate and Viacom. On May 13, Live Nation will begin live-streaming concerts starting with Zac Brown Band. IMP Fashion will host behind-the-scenes content around Fashion Week and runway shows, and Propagate will have a live daily show covering all things pop culture. With Viacom, Twitter will stream awards shows like the Grammys and BET Awards.

"We could not be prouder of the success we have achieved so quickly since launching live-streaming premium content. Last quarter, we streamed over 800 hours of live premium content from leading brands across sports, esports, news and entertainment," said Twitter COO Anthony Noto. "Adding these 12 new live deals tonight is a testament to the success of our only-on-Twitter experience, combining high-quality streaming video with our only-on-Twitter conversation."

To Zak Trehaft, president at Omnicom's Hearts & Science, the additional live shows are a step in the right direction to bolster Twitter's reputation. "I would not say that these deals on their own will turn all of Twitter's fortunes around, but they certainly make it more attractive to the advertiser," he said. The Bloomberg deal in particular "is high-quality content, professionally produced and managed. And the way it is delivered, it looks like standard video that we can interrupt with ads."

Joey Neal, chief experience officer at The Burns Group, is on the same page. "I think that it will move the needle ever so slightly, but not bring in big audience numbers," he said. "We will have to see how they implement, and how snackable the content is. Overall they have to iterate at Instagram levels of innovation to make a difference." What Neal would really like to see is for the platform to open all APIs to developers. 

Still, Derella challenged all other NewFronts presenters: "The rest of this month, you're going to see a lot of presentations," he said. "You're not going to see anyone that can give you the audience mindset, the most premium content, and do both at massive and accelerating scale like Twitter can."

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