Twitter Signs a Deal to Stream Regular-Season W.N.B.A. Games

General, United States

The games are exclusive to Twitter and are not simulcasts of local or national television games. Twitter is paying the W.N.B.A. guaranteed money to stream the games, but the league would not release the financial details. The W.N.B.A. also has a national television deal with ESPN that runs through 2022 and includes 16 games per season and coverage of the playoffs, the draft and the All-Star Game.

“We are excited to help extend the reach of women’s sports around the world by collaborating further with the N.B.A. to be the home of weekly live W.N.B.A. games for the next three seasons,” Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief operating officer, said in a news release. “The growing women’s basketball fan base will be able to turn to Twitter to watch free games side by side with the real-time conversation.”

This is the latest sports deal for Twitter, which streams weekly out-of-market Major League Baseball and N.H.L. games, some PGA Tour events and other minor events.

Twitter also streamed 10 of the N.F.L.’s “Thursday Night Football” games last season, but Amazon outbid Twitter for this season’s digital package. Amazon will air 10 Thursday night games on its Amazon Prime service, for which customers pay $99 per year. The N.F.L. deal is Amazon’s first foray into sports rights.

Facebook also recently struck deals to stream live sporting events. During the 2016-17 season, the N.B.A.’s Development League games were streamed on Facebook Live. In March, Facebook and Major League Soccer announced that at least 22 games in the 2017 season would be available on Facebook.

“Sports are inherently social, with the power to build and connect communities around the world,” Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, said in a statement. “This aligns closely with our mission, and we feel Facebook is a natural home for sports content, including live games. Early experiments with these events on Facebook have delivered great results for fans, broadcasters and rights holders.”

For now, major broadcasters like ABC/ESPN, NBC, CBS and Fox Sports dominate the market for sports rights and pay hundreds of millions of dollars to televise games. Major internet companies like Facebook and Amazon have the financial resources to compete with traditional broadcasters, although they have not invested much money in sports rights deals so far.

“It’s not clear yet how to make these profitable in their own right, but because there’s a belief that it can be value-enhancing, I think you’re just going to see more deals of this nature so long as the leagues are willing to sell those rights separately,” said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

He added, “It’s one of those things where it’s worth putting some money into because they may want to go bigger.”

Still, deals with internet and social media companies are a way for smaller leagues like the W.N.B.A. to add revenue and experiment with new ways to show their games. In 2016, the W.N.B.A. streamed the ring ceremony for the Minnesota Lynx on Facebook.

“If folks can’t be physically in a market inside an arena, then we look for them to use tools like Twitter to enjoy the games,” Borders said. “Folks have their choice of when they want to see games and how they want to see games. This is a real nod to the future, on recognizing that some of our fans are consuming sports in very different ways.”

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Source: New York Times

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