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Twitter to ramp up 24/7 live video activity

Twitter_logo_blueTwitter plans to scale up its presence in video by launching more 24-hour streaming, introducing new audience engagement features and opening up video opportunities to brands, according to Scott Eblen.

Speaking at the Connected TV World Summit in London, Twitter’s director of product management and live video said that the company plans to build on its existing presence in live video by moving into 24/7 streaming.

Twitter has already announced a 24/7 sports channel and recently did a 24/7 deal with Bloomberg. Eblen said he viewed 24/7 streaming as a way to test out new concepts and new ways to engage with users.

Twitter has also experimented with what Eblen described as “real time prompts” to “pull in the audience”. Broadcasters will be able push “something to everyone” watching a show and incorporate the feedback into the show itself. “This open up a wealth of opportunities,” he said, although he shied away from being more specific about what the company is planning ahead of these features being launched.

Eblen said that Twitter would also seek to open up live video more to brands. He cited the work the company had done with Nike, where Twitter broadcast a marathon created by the sportswear company.

Another new feature under trial is ‘Top Commentary’, where Twitter has worked with brands to identify expert commentary that will be included prominently around the content on the feed.

Eblen said building more partnerships is central to Twitter’s view of its future in video. He said the social media platform would also work with diverse content owners and cited the example of a recent deal with women’s basketball association the WNBA that saw 1.1 million tune into a game – for a sport that has traditionally struggled to find an audience.

These moves follow Twitter’s significant and successful bid to broadcast 10 games from the National Football League, bringing new long-form live content to the platform for the first time.

Eblen said that Twitter’s involvement in live sports was based on an understanding that it could add value to live broadcast by bringing in an additional social dimension to the experience.

“We identified an opportunity through doing user research and found a way for Twitter to help,” he said. “Researchers had observed people watching sports and found that spectating required social participation to be a meaningful experience.”

Twitter’s researchers found that people watching entertainment experiences in isolation was an unsatisfactory experience that would  be enhanced by interaction and social participation. “People want the roar of the crowd. Where is that? TV is one subset of everything that happens,” said Eblen. He said that Twitter had won the contract for NFL in May and built a feature into its mobile app to enable people to get involved in the conversation around the live feed of the match.

“We are bringing together the conversation that is happening globally around these events,” he said. For football, Twitter enabled users to post animated GIF reactions to the match. Viewers could also tune in and out of the conversation around the game.

Twitter had also done syndication deals with the Huffington Post and Time and others enabling the feed and Tweets to be seen on their websites, he said.

Eblen claimed that Twitter had enjoyed “a fantastic season with the NFL” and had enabled the rights holders to reach a broader audience. The competition garnered 3.5 million weekly unique viewers, of whom 55% were under 25 years old. A quarter of the audience was international. The 12% who saw matches while not logged into Twitter showed how the content could be used to reach consumers who had not previously been interested in the social media platform, he said.

Following the NFL deal, Twitter has become involved in a number of other live TV events. The company aired over 800 hours of live premium content last year and secured 45 million unique viewers in Q1, he said. A third of viewers overall were under 25, said Eblen.

Referring to Twitter’s acquisition of UK-based video processing specialist Magic Pony, Eblen said that the acquisition of the latter’s ‘super resolution’ technology enabled people to watch live video even with poor internet connections demonstrated the company’s commitment.