Twitter’s live video ambition risks all-out content war

Arjun Kharpal
UK General Election 2017 - Daily Sightings
Twitter says it wants 24/7 live video content (Source: Getty)

Twitter's first quarter earnings last week gave investors something to cheer about, with users growing again and advertising engagement up on the platform. But although the company touts growth of its video content and livestreaming service, some of its ambitions should raise some eyebrows.

The social media site’s chief operating officer Anthony Noto told BuzzFeed last week that the company is considering video content that is always on.

“We will definitely have 24/7 [video] content on Twitter,” Noto said.

Having targeted video around big events like sports or politics is one thing, but filling up 24 hours a day, every day with content, without it being low quality, could be a big challenge.

Content is king, and this phrase has never been truer than in today’s world. Companies that once had nothing to do with video content are all jumping in. Apple plans to release comedian James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke”, for example, while e-commerce giant Amazon is making a massive push with its Prime Video streaming service.

Read more: Pressure mounts on Twitter boss after robot revelation

The danger for Twitter is that it is coming up against larger rivals with deep pockets that are not afraid to sink cash to win market share and users. It risks a content war and this could concern investors. And it has already begun.

Amazon signed a deal with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday night NFL games, with media reports suggesting the one-year deal was worth $50m. Last season, Twitter had the rights to this deal and paid $10m. Amazon came in with $40m more and took it away.

Noto brushed this aside in the BuzzFeed interview and said it could bid for other rights.

“We have a really big audience when there’s a pay per view UFC match,” Noto said. “Should we provide that content to the audience on Twitter that’s not watching it, but might like to after seeing tweets about it? That’s something we’d consider.”

There’s no denying that Twitter is the place for real-time conversation around events. It said it had 5.1m unique viewers when it streamed the Grammys, with many of those people likely tweeting. But as it continues its video push, it faces up to Netflix, which is planning to spend $6bn on content this year, while Amazon’s content spend continues to rise.

Read more: Netflix beats earnings forecast but misses subscriptions estimate

If Twitter comes up against these two behemoths – which have investors willing to give them time to invest money – it could find itself outbid on some content, which could put a spanner in the works of its 24/7 plan.

It’s also questionable whether investors will tolerate a content spending binge by Twitter, given that it is yet to prove that it can continue to grow users.

There’s no doubt that live video is the future of Twitter, but any plans to compete with the giants will require tactical decisions, targeted spend and focused programmes to avoid an all-out content war.

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