All eyes will be on Twitter this fall when the micro-blogging site livestreams 10 of the NFL's 16 Thursday Night Football games. It's a big move that could prove that Twitter is either indeed the go-to place for sports chatter or end up as a disaster if the streaming is not high-quality or instant.
This week at the Cannes Lions festival, Twitter revealed how it plans to sell marketers on the livestream and how advertising will work. Re/code initially broke the news on Wednesday, reporting that Twitter is aiming for $50 million in ad sales from this fall's games.
According to a source, Twitter has sold roughly 60 percent of its inventory so far, with the goal of selling a total of 10 to 15 ad packages. Bud Light, Sony Pictures, Bank of America and Nestle's DiGiorno all plan to advertise during the livestreamed games.
"We successfully partnered with Twitter last year, and Thursday Night Football is a cornerstone of the upcoming campaign that this is a natural place for us to be," said Azania Andrews, senior director of digital connections for North America at Anheuser-Busch.
Elias Plishner, evp of digital marketing for Sony Pictures, added that he expects NFL streams to open the floodgates for real-time marketing during games.
"Tapping into live NFL content on Twitter, along with their influential movie-going audience, is a natural extension for us and paves the way for many more real-time possibilities," he said.
As part of the partnership, Twitter is responsible for selling all digital ad inventory, but it's unclear what portion of the revenue will go to the NFL because Twitter paid $10 million for the broadcast rights for 10 games. The NFL declined to comment for this story.
There are a few different ways that brands can advertise on Twitter during Thursday night games, ranging from $2 million to $8 million packages.
All ad packages include pre-roll video ads run through Twitter's Amplify program that places ads alongside game highlight clips. Those video ads will run during the livestreamed games and also throughout the entire NFL season. Last year, the NFL tweeted about 75 clips per week that Twitter sold ads against, and this year there will be an average of 90 clips.
The most expensive ad packages also include live digital commercials that look like TV ads. The stream will pipe in national TV broadcasts from NBC and CBS, each of which typically averages 75 commercials. Of those, 60 to 65 run nationally and 10 to 15 are local ads. Twitter will only sell the local ads while NBC and CBS handle the national ads. Using Twitter's ad-targeting technology, brands will run targeted 30-second spots that are similar to what they are used to airing on TV.
Twitter is also looking to make money from its livestreaming app Periscope for the first time. The NFL will broadcast live content leading up to each Thursday night game and brands can sponsor the stream. For example, a logo or caption could indicate that the content is sponsored. Marketers can then pay to promote those clips in a dedicated feed on Twitter that will aggregate tweets about the game.
For sports fans watching on Twitter, they'll be able to watch the livestream as a full-screen video or watch it so that the screen is split into a video player and a stream of tweets.