Twitter's first NFL livestream scores a touchdown with fans

The social network's livestream of Thursday Night Football lived up to the hype with viewers.

Terry Collins Staff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
Terry Collins
2 min read
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Twitter won its NFL livestreaming debut by a wide margin.

The social network received rave reviews Thursday for the first of its 10-game package of Thursday Night Football games, a slugfest between bitter AFC East rivals the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. The Jets hung on to win a 37-31 thriller.

Fans such as Chaz Warner wasted no time describing what he thought of Twitter's presentation of America 's most popular sport:

The game was a huge test for Twitter as it tries to broaden its appeal. The general consensus: Twitter's stream of the CBS broadcast, which came with a timeline of curated tweets, was of HD-like quality. (CBS is CNET's parent company.) Many of the tweets used the hashtag #TNF.

Some fans griped about the stream lagging the telecast. Sometimes it was as much as minute behind the telecast. But the vast majority of watchers, including Jeff Bell, came away impressed.

My CNET colleagues, Claudia Cruz, Scott Stein (a diehard Jets fan) and Joan Solsman also tweeted their insights about the livestream. Take notes, Twitter.

Meanwhile, I agree with Sports Illustrated Media Circus columnist Richard Deitsch:

Twitter user Adam Oteri agreed about the timelines, even giving Twitter Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto an earful about it:

Not so surprisingly, ex-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo had high praise for the livestream:

Even Twitter Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain, a huge sports fan who told me late last month how psyched he was about this spectacle, was impressed with Thursday's game being watched overseas:

At its peak, the Twitter livestream attracted 2.1 million viewers, though average audience per minute was 243,000, the NFL said on Friday.

By comparison, 16.4 million viewers saw the game on CBS and the NFL Network.

One of the bigger issues Twitter also may have to contend with are those watching the game on TV and tweeting what's happening in real-time (like when Jets' running back Matt Forte scored one of his three touchdowns), somewhat spoiling it for those catching the action on the livestream.

Still, Twitter can take a victory lap Thursday, despite its constant struggles to attract new members and impress its investors. For now, the livestream shows why Twitter raked up deals with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and the Pac 12 Conference to compliment the NFL.

Meanwhile, my colleague Scott Stein, who is admittedly a wreck during Jets' games was in rare form Thursday night. Late in the fourth quarter, Scott, whose Twitter handle is @jetscott, tweeted he thought he was "going to pass out."

Updated September 16 at 8:35 a.m. PT: Adds details about lag between livestream and telecast.

Updated September 16 at 4:28 p.m. PT: Adds viewership numbers.