Twitter Passes NFL Test. Now It Should Produce Original Programming

September 16, 2016
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Last night’s game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills was hardly memorable. Week 2 NFL match-ups between divisional rivals rarely are. However, it just might have been one of the most significant moments in sports broadcast over the past several decades.

The game marked the first time an NFL game has aired on Twitter. Yeah, that Twitter. Desperate for user growth after years of stagnation, the social network streamed its first NFL games from a package of 10 Thursday night tilts it purchased from the NFL for the low-low price of $10 million. (A trial rate, to be fair.) While the stream lagged behind the CBS broadcast, sometimes by several minutes, users were generally pleased by the picture quality of the stream, and a curated feed within the broadcast weeded out distracting trollage. Perfect? No. But for cord-cutters, last night was the kind of carrier-free utopia you’ve always longed for. Did I mention viewing was free?

Twitter has nine games left within this experiment to tinker with the user experience, and you can bet it will. The stream will get better and features will be added. In the meantime, I’m joining the camp that believes Twitter should begin to think and operate like a media company rather than social media platform. And here’s the number one reason why:

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In its current form, Twitter isn’t for everybody. A large part of the problem is some 95 percent of the content created and published by its users can be described as vapid, hollow or, at worst, vitriolic. Entire corners of Twitter serve as a cesspool for so-called “eggs” to spew profound racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and everything in between. Other than that, it’s pretty great.

At the same time, there’s no better platform for second-screen viewing, especially during live events like awards shows, sporting events, political debates (no, really) and major television episodes. It’s the ultimate peanut gallery, and at best, creates community viewing experiences even when you’re at home watching television alone.

That’s why I (along with probably thousands of others) offer Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this one bit of advice: Invest in original programming. Partner with an up-and-coming auteur to create a miniseries that only lives on Twitter. Recent TV hits like “Mr. Robot,” “Atlanta,” “Stranger Things,” and “The Night Of” have earned wildly enthusiastic audiences in large part because of viewer advocacy on Twitter — perhaps the ultimate word-of-mouth platform. Even as the media landscape continues to reshape itself, it remains true that media consumers love to recommend the media they most enjoy. Creating original programming exclusive to Twitter users could help Dorsey and Co. recruit and grow for the first time in almost three years.

Here’s only hoping a show produced by Twitter would appropriately feature 140 characters or less. (Sorry.)