Twitter’s been bingeing on live streaming lately, like an addict in search of their latest fix. The NFL, Wimbledon, the RNC, the DNC, and today, Bloomberg. What’s more, they’re rumored to be in negotiations with at least ten other providers, including MLB and the NBA.
That’s all well and good, but there’s this thing called an interface that they really, really need to start paying attention to.
Twitter has always been an odd beast in that media companies have been far more taken with it than the general public. They conveniently overlook the trolling, the fake accounts, the spam and the porn and only see the very public numbers that come out of the platform, the favorites and the retweets and retweets of retweets. It’s a heady brew.
But meanwhile back in the real world, users have to figure out just why they’re watching a football game on a screen that makes an Apple Watch look spacious. Sure you can go to full screen to watch, but if you can’t see the tweets, it defeats the whole purpose of watching on Twitter.
Wimbledon was a prime example of this, as Twitter ran commentary but no matches along with an unfiltered feed that Variety’s Todd Spangler described as “like sitting in the world’s biggest sports bar, with random strangers blustering or snarking in your ear.”
Granted it was billed as a test run and a learning experience, but if nothing else, it pointed up the limitations of live streaming, or, more accurately, the limitations of live streaming on a platform that was not designed for live streaming.
At its best, live streaming allows for true interactivity and the feeling that the viewer is a part of the experience. That’s the beauty of some of the more successful shows appearing on built-for-live platforms like YouNow, live.ly and, of course Facebook Live.
Twitter on the other hand is not an ideal platform for live video for all the reasons we’ve previously mentioned. And while they have the Periscope app for live streaming, they seem hesitant to press it into action for live streaming television feeds, possibly because it requires a separate download, something many viewers may be loathe to do.
The media companies that are feeding Twitter’s live streaming habit have nothing to lose from these deals. It’s free exposure for them, along with a sizable licensing fee and the potential for some additional ad revenue. (Twitter will allegedly sell preroll ads via Amplify on clips that are tweeted during the broadcast.) They get to keep all their existing OTT options in place (e.g. apps for pay-TV subscribers) and it’s doubtful that the Twitter streams will steal any real traffic.
Twitter, on the other hand, risks being seen as a disappointment once again, a confusing jumble of an interface that the media elite seems to think is the cat’s meow, but average users find incomprehensible. (There’s an analogy to be made there to the current political climate, but we won’t go there. Yet.)
Which is not to say Twitter can’t make it all work. As part of the media elite, we’re big fans of the platform and its disappearance would certainly create a void. All they’ve got to do is spend some real time working on improving the interface, maybe make the tweets come on as an overlay, allow people to limit the tweet stream to their friends or to the official feed, maybe even add in some interactivity.
Stranger things have happened.