Sports: Twitter's Potential Game Changer

Can sports be Twitter's next big play and keep it going strong?

15/08/2016 5:41 PM IST | Updated 17/08/2016 1:18 PM IST
Kacper Pempel / Reuters

On 23 March 2016, I was on a bus travelling home. India was facing Bangladesh in a crucial T20 World Cup match. This was the nail-biter in which Dhoni had produced a magical run-out to make India win by one run.

There was no way that I could get a decent data network to stream the match on my phone. And, most streams run a few minutes behind anyway. There was just one way for me to follow the match, Twitter. And boy, it didn't disappoint. Every second was commented on, and Vines were out moments after Dhoni produced the run-out. I 'saw' the match virtually, without missing a thing.

There has been a rise in social networks centred around different things -- Facebook for friends, Instagram for photos, and Snapchat for quirky moments. Twitter remains special in the world of sports.

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India v Bangladesh

Overall, Twitter is not doing too well. User growth is falling and pieces claiming that "Twitter is dead" are being published every day. They have managed to add just 9 million active users in the last one year. It is evident that microblogging platform is no longer the red hot social media star it once was. However, there is one area where it still hits the ball out of the park, and that is sports.

During every sporting event, the major social networks have special pages or features for fans to catch up with all things latest. But Twitter's live nature gives it an edge over Facebook, Snapchat, and others. Many jokes and reactions are formed around the matches on Twitter which are enjoyable for a sports fan.

Tweet activity spikes during pivotal moments in the game. In the last T20 World Cup, for instance, when India won against Australia, the tweet rate was an impressive 16,200 per minute.


And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The scope for fan engagement goes up vastly for sports such as football, with their global following. During the 2014 World Cup, fans tweeted almost 672 million times. The peak moment came during the match between Brazil and Germany, when there were over 600,000 tweets per minute.

In October 2015, Twitter introduced moments, which is a curated collection of tweets, vines and videos around an event. To begin with, it was just available for users in the US, but now it is being rolled out globally. Even though some countries don't have a special 'moments' tab in their apps, 'moments' for big events are posted on their timeline.

Twitter announced last week that it will open up the 'moments' feature to more creators. Although these creators will come from different fields, sports highlights will be a lucrative part of the package.

Recently, Twitter live-streamed their first gaming event. Reports even suggest that Twitter might roll out a separate app for live-streaming sports. The company has signed a deal for live streaming exclusive NBA (Basketball) and NFL (American football) content in the US.

Many count Twitter as their second screen experience for sports. It is to be seen if Twitter can leverage that and also bring some first screen experience for sports fans.

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