Twitter Goes After Facebook and YouTube With Streaming Video Move

Mar 16, 2017

The fact that video is one of the few places where media companies can still make money becomes obvious when you see how many places are banking on it for growth, whether it's Facebook ramping up its live video offerings or services like Genius pivoting to focus on it.

Twitter has also hopped on this particular bandwagon. The company has been busy over the past year signing streaming deals with as many different sporting leagues and associations as it can, including a reported $10 million deal with the National Football League, among others.

Now, the company plans to make it even easier for content creators and media companies of all kinds to inject streaming video into the service, according to a report at The Information, quoting two people with knowledge of the company's plans.

The report says that next week, Twitter will open up its API—the application-programming interface that allows outside services to connect to the network—so that publishers can push streaming video into Twitter whenever they wish.

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Streaming video currently appears on Twitter only when the creator or provider has signed a partnership deal of some kind with the company—as the NFL and others such as Bloomberg News have done—or when someone uses Periscope, the streaming-video app that Twitter bought in 2015.

Although Periscope has attracted a certain number of passionate users—and has been cited in the past by influential users such as Deray McKesson, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement—it hasn't really achieved anything close to mainstream acceptance.

Last year, Twitter shut down another live video service it acquired called Vine. Twitter said at the time it wanted to focus on bringing more streaming video into the network directly instead of having it in standalone apps. The company is also reportedly hoping to make a big splash at the upcoming "newfronts" digital media marketing event in May.

By focusing on streaming video, whether from sports leagues and traditional TV networks or from digital creators, Twitter is likely to run headlong into both YouTube and Facebook.

The giant social network started by pushing its Facebook Live feature as a home for short-form, viral videos by celebrities and other users. But more recently, the company has been shifting its focus somewhat to longer-form content. And it has been signing its own deals with sports franchises, including a recent one with the Major League Soccer.

Facebook has also been paying certain media partners—such as the New York Times and BuzzFeed—to produce video, although industry sources say this is likely to come to an end soon. And the social network is also busy signing up creators and licensing more traditional TV-style content as part of a unit that is being run by CollegeHumor founder Ricky Van Veen.

Twitter has shown that it can generate powerful engagement around live events, such as the Oscars telecast and the Super Bowl, which could appeal to live-video publishers of all kinds. But Facebook has 1.5 billion daily users—many times more than Twitter does—and that could make it hard for the smaller service to sell itself as a place for video to thrive.

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