TwitterTV? Twitter Makes The Case For Live At Its Inaugural NewFronts

Twitter’s first-ever NewFronts pitch to advertisers: We’re like TV for millennials.

But do people really want to tune in to Twitter to watch long-form live-streaming content?

Bloomberg, which announced an expanded live-streaming deal with Twitter on Monday, is betting on the fact that consumers are ready.

“When we see millions of people go to Twitter to watch the debates, we’re encouraged by that,” Bloomberg Media’s global head of digital, M. Scott Havens, told AdExchanger. “The next evolution for both Bloomberg and Twitter is to rethink how people consume news on social and mobile.”

The streaming news platform, tentatively titled TicToc, may not be for everyone, but the use case is logical and it’s got a viable ad-supported business model to back it up, said Michael Bloomberg on Monday at the NewFronts event that bears his name.

And Twitter is looking for a good monetization story to tell.

User growth on the platform is starting to rebound, but Wall Street is still concerned about stiff competition from more scaled social players, lackluster direct-response products, headwinds from Twitter’s failed acquisition of remarketing platform TellApart and overall ad revenue declines.

Live video could be the tailwind Twitter needs to spark advertiser interest. Revenue, however, will remain elusive. Last week, Twitter CFO and COO Anthony Noto warned that negative impacts from discontinued products like TellApart will blow away any potential revenue gains from the NewFronts.

Regardless, Twitter is running a full-court press on live video across news, sports and entertainment.

In addition to Bloomberg, Twitter unveiled partnerships and original live programming opportunities at its NewFronts event on Monday with Cheddar, LiveNation, Viacom, the WNBA, MLB and a smorgasbord of other content rights holders. The ink is already drying on a couple of advertiser deals, including with Nike as a sponsor of the PGA Tour live stream and Wendy’s as the underwriter of a sassy BuzzFeed live morning news and current events program.

The dotted line between live-streaming video content and Twitter’s core value prop as a place to find out what’s happening in real time is defensible. The audiences are smaller than on live TV, but far from negligible.

Around 3.2 million viewers tuned into Twitter’s live stream of the second presidential debate via Bloomberg in October, while in February, 5.1 million people watched Twitter’s live Grammys pre-show stream.

Consumers are mobile-first and their content experience of choice is video, said Matt Derella, Twitter’s VP of global revenue and operations.

“Seems like a good time to go all-in on digital video,” Derella said in an appeal to advertisers at Twitter’s NewFronts event. “We’re taking premium professional TV quality video and pairing it with the speed, interactivity and access of Twitter.”

Bloomberg’s TickTock is Twitter’s most ambitious example of that strategy in action.

“Twitter changed the game for seeing what’s happening right this moment,” Havens said. “It’s an easy way to find the world’s new fast. We can add a layer of video on that and, frankly, trusted journalism.”

TickTock will function like an interactive TV channel, with 24/7 exclusive news broadcasts hosted by Bloomberg journalists flanked by side rail feeds for trending stories and user-generated videos sourced from Twitter.

The plan is to monetize the “channel” with advertising, but it’s not clear yet what that experience will look like. Video ads presumably will play a role, but Havens said he wants to do more than slap on a few 15- and 30-second commercials.

“If we’re going to reinvent news for 2017, we also need to rethink how we integrate advertising into a new platform,” Havens said, noting that Bloomberg will lead the sales effort and package the inventory with pinch-hitting and input from the Twitter side.

Havens and his team will start hardcore development on the service this summer with a launch slated for the fall.

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