While competitors continue to emerge, Clubhouse is looking to capitalize on its opportunities with the announcement of a new, exclusive content deal with the NFL, which will see the league broadcast via a range of Rooms in the lead-up to the 2021 NFL Draft.
As explained by Clubhouse:
"With Clubhouse’s highly interactive audio-based social platform, fans can drop in on the NFL’s rooms to follow the picks live as they’re announced, and listen in on discussions featuring key NFL figures - from athletes and coaches to network personalities. Fans also have the opportunity to join the conversation and be invited on stage by moderators to ask questions or share their reactions to the Draft."
The deal makes the NFL the first major sports league to collaborate with Clubhouse on official programming, and could help Clubhouse connect with more NFL fans around the event.
Though it will also highlight a key weakness, in that despite Clubhouse broadcasting popular, exclusive content, only people who've been invited to the app will be able to join. That reduces the effectiveness of the partnership somewhat - but still, Clubhouse says that it already hosts a range of regular NFL-related rooms, so it will provide new opportunities to enhance community connection and reach.
The NFL regularly tests out new platforms with a view to expanding its online presence and connection opportunities. Its official account on TikTok, for example, was the fastest-growing pro sports account in 2019, latching onto the initial momentum of the app, while the NFL has also signed live-streaming deals with both Facebook and Twitter at different times, and maintains exclusive content arrangements with Snapchat.
Given this, it's no surprise to see the league partner with Clubhouse as well, while the deal also reflects Clubhouse's emerging business strategy, which could see it establish more content deals with major sports leagues moving forward, as a means for provide higher quality, exclusive content, and attract more users.
But as noted, the challenges before it are rising.
Last week, both Facebook and Reddit announced their own Clubhouse-like audio social tools, neither of which is likely to generate the same amount of hype as Clubhouse, but both of which could cause significant problems for the app as Clubhouse looks to expand its user base.
The value of Clubhouse lies in its communities, in niche, specific discussions around focused topics that can see huge interest and engagement within those smaller sub-groups. Many participants in those chats are likely also members of related Facebook groups, and/or similar subreddits, which could mean that once those same, Clubhouse-type connection tools are available within these options instead, they don't even bother to download the app, or seek out a Clubhouse invite.
That may not seem like a major concern, but Facebook groups are used by 1.8 billion people every month, and Reddit sees strong engagement on a wide range of niche topics. Add Twitter Spaces into the mix, and that's a lot of people who might find similar, if not more value in these various Clubhouse alternatives, reducing the need for them to download a new app, and seek out new groups.
Really, Clubhouse needs to expand, and soon, most notably via an Android app, but also by opening up to all users. Or it definitely runs the risk of losing out entirely on the trend that it began.
Still, right now, the opportunity is there. In its weekly Town Hall summary, Clubhouse also noted that more than 300,000 Rooms are created in the app every day, while it's also working to improve its Room recommendations, with new localization filtering and improved club suggestions.
And it is launching a live test of its Android version, likely this week.
There's clearly significant potential there, but it's being diluted week-by-week. Hopefully, for Clubhouse's sake, it doesn't miss its biggest opportunity.