Jack Dorsey On Twitter TV Apps, And Its Monetization Difficulties

sorrellTwitter underscored its seriousness about live TV on Wednesday with the debut of an app for the Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Xbox One connected television devices. It also planned to host the first of 10 live-streamed NFL games on Thursday.

“We’re resetting expectations around what Twitter is, which is to get news of what’s happening around you,” said CEO Jack Dorsey in an interview with WPP honcho Martin Sorrell at DMEXCO Thursday. Dorsey was, ironically, patched in via live video from his pad in San Francisco.

“We’ve been watching people tweet about what’s on the screen in front of them for a long time, so to enable people to [view TV] within the app is where we think we can add value and innovate,” he added.

But despite Twitter’s recent TV innovations, it’s also struggled to monetize – and Sorrell called that out.

WPP invested $150 million on Twitter campaigns two years ago, and last year it spent $240 million.

This year, it’s on track to clock $350 million in Twitter spend. Yet, Sorrell wondered why – with that amount of spend across a single holding company’s portfolio – Twitter’s revenue was only some $2.2 billion last year.

“Why is it that Twitter, frankly, is not profitable, loses money, has lost money for years and can’t monetize effectively despite the support we’ve shown?” he asked. 

Dorsey responded that Twitter is investing in its technology infrastructure and argued that the platform has always pushed for innovation in ad products.

When asked if that innovation would happen under a standalone company – or as part of Apple, Google or Facebook, should one of those companies show interest in acquiring Twitter – Dorsey said there has always been a lot of “interest and passion” around Twitter.

“There’s a lot of speculation of what Twitter could become or where it could go, but we have a strong plan that we’re focused on executing,” he said. “We’re focused on making our core better [and] launching new experiences like we did with the NFL. Something that’s low-latency, but feels extremely live.”

Twitter’s TV apps strategy is the next iteration of its initial TV product – Amplify – which helped broadcasters distribute short video clips and monetized through a rev share with those networks.

But instead of asking broadcasters to simply repackage their clips, Twitter’s live video push aims to make Twitter a distribution hub in its own right.

One challenge is how Twitter will manage the relationships with broadcasters and programmers such as the NFL, which have sold exclusive sponsorship rights for years.

Sorrell asked about this but Dorsey avoided the question, saying Twitter is mainly focused on growing its user base to remain a viable partner to TV companies.

“We’re focused on increasing the top of funnel so that more people see these [live] events,” he said. Twitter claims 1 billion syndicated users access tweets on TV, print and other channels.

“The difference with our platform is it’s open,” Dorsey said. “We want to give people a reason to download the app and personalize their own news stream and get in the conversation.”


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