Twitter has announced a fairly unusual new streaming partnership with the NBA as it continues to explore new ways to tap into evolving video and social media consumption behaviors.
As explained by Twitter:
Further detail from Recode explains that the new initiative will see Twitter live-stream the second half of 20 NBA games this year, but rather than showing the game as you would expect, the stream will focus on a single player, with the camera following that one player around the court.
Fans on Twitter will be able to vote for the player they want to watch during the first half of each game, then you'll be able to see a dedicated follow stream of the chosen star for the latter two quarters. The initiative will begin at this year's All-Star Game in February, and follow through till the first round of the finals.
Interesting, right? I mean, it seems a little strange, but as Recode notes:
"If NBA fans see value in watching a LeBron James “iso-cam” on Twitter while simultaneously watching Turner’s broadcast of the Lakers game on television, everyone wins."
That would appear to be the most likely use of the option - though it will also give those without an NBA TV or relevant provider subscription a free way to tune into at least some level of live NBA action. You would think that trying to take in a game from a single player perspective wouldn't provide much of a viewing experience, but then again, it could be something. It could be more interesting than it seems.
It's the latest in Twitter's efforts to tap into emerging TV viewing behaviors, which both Twitter and Facebook have been working to capitalize on in order to boost their revenue generation potential.
And if you look at the data, streaming TV content direct on social media platforms makes a lot of sense. Various studies have shown that traditional TV viewers are increasingly engaging on social platforms to discuss the content they're watching, with social apps being the most popular apps that people use when viewing TV shows, by a big margin.
So if people are watching TV and discussing it on social anyway, combining the two should be a clear winner. Right?
That would appear to be the logic, however, in practice, it's not as easy as simply broadcasting TV-like content on social and watching the engagement figures stack up.
Thus far, neither Twitter nor Facebook have been able to "crack the code" on this. Twitter made live-stream TV content a major focus over the last few years, but has seemingly scaled back in more recent times, while Facebook, through Facebook Watch, is still trying to find the best way forward. Its more recent efforts involve a range of communal video viewing options, which somewhat stimulate the experience of watching regular TV, but constrained within the Facebook environment.
Will that work? Probably not. The appeal of watching and commenting on TV programs in real-time is that a huge group of people - both friends and strangers - are watching simultaneously, and you can be part of a much broader conversation by tuning into the accompanying stream. Communal viewing options simulate this, but on a far smaller scale, which likely won't hold the same appeal.
So what's the answer then? Is there a way that social networks can tap into these TV viewing trends and generate more engagement, and ad potential, as a result?
As this new experiment shows, no one really knows what the way forward is - but again, the trend data would suggest that there should be a way. Providing complimentary content options like this could be it. This one, in particular, seems more like a curiosity than a viable way forward. But then again, the data will tell the tale, and you can bet that the social networks themselves will continue trying new things to tap into this broader usage behavior.
And if they can, prepare for a whole new range of ad options with broad reach and appeal. That would seemingly still be a way off, but if the platforms can get it right, it could change the game in terms of TV-like ad tools.