Twitter Inks Live Content Deal With Disney, Plans ESPN Shows

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

NBCUniversal has also agreed to distribute live videos and clips from its networks across Twitter.

Twitter is growing its live content offerings with the help of Disney and NBCUniversal. 

The social media platform, led by CEO Jack Dorsey, has struck a number of deals to bring more video programming to its platform.

The first, with Disney, includes plans to create live shows from across the media company's portfolio of brands beginning with ESPN. The sports network will introduce Twitter audiences to SportsCenter Live, which will feature a mix of analysis and reporting, and Fantasy Focus Live, a video version of the ESPN podcast that will now stream live daily from the social media site. As part of the deal, Disney and Twitter also will work together to find advertising opportunities. 

Twitter on Monday announced the new ESPN shows as part of its second annual NewFronts presentation. All told, the company revealed more than 30 deals that will bulk up video on the platform. It is the expansion of a strategy to invest in original programming that began in 2016 under then-Twitter COO Anthony Noto with the streaming of the NFL's Thursday Night Football package. 

During an hourlong presentation at New York's Terminal 5, Twitter outlined a distribution deal with NBCUniversal, in which the media company will publish live video and clips from its portfolio of brands — including NBC, NBC News, Telemundo and E! News — on Twitter. 

“Twitter is the only place where conversation is tied to video and the biggest live moments, giving brands the unique ability to connect with leaned in consumers who are shaping culture,” said Twitter global vp revenue and content partnerships Matthew Derella. “That’s our superpower.”

When it comes to live video, Twitter is focusing on three broad categories: entertainment and lifestyle, news and sports and gaming. Under entertainment and lifestyle, the company has inked deals with Ellen Digital Studios for CELEBrate, in which celebrities surprise their fans with good news; and Will Packer Media, which is producing a show inspired by the phenomenon of Black Twitter. Twitter has also renewed its deals with Live Nation and Viacom. 

On the news front, Twitter is extending its deal with BuzzFeed for the morning news show AM to DM and is planning the interactive series The New Space Race from Vice News and the science series Pattern from the people behind The Weather Channel. Twitter is also expanding its female-driven content with shows including election-themed Crash the Party from HuffPost and the Liz Plank-hosted Divided States of Women from Vox Media. 

In addition to the ESPN shows, Twitter is bulking up its sport programming lineup with a Formula 1 post-race show, a House of Highlights series from Bleacher Report and the eight-episode series Barstool Live. 

The announcement come on the heels of a strong first quarter for Twitter, during which video made up more than 50 percent of its advertising revenue. During the quarter, the platform streamed more than 1,300 live events from more than 30 partnerships. All told, Twitter reported revenue of $655 million and 336 million monthly active users. 

On Monday evening, Twitter also revealed plans to pair some of its top creators with brands for in-stream video partnerships. Through the Creator Originals program, Twitter will debut series from creators including Josh Peck, Sara Hopkins and Brittany Sky.

Last year, Twitter announced 16 partnerships. The company revealed Monday that all 16 of those shows were sold to brands, a rarity at NewFronts where companies regularly tout projects onstage that never get made. Twitter also touted the brand-safe environment that it offers through its premium live video series. 

Further, Derella described Twitter as not a "look at me" platform, but a platform that directs its audience to "look at this breaking news" and "watch this live video." 

He added: "The people who drive the conversation shape the culture, and the people that shape the culture, change the world."