Twitter’s fourth-quarter earnings were not as promising as many had hoped, gaining just 2 million more users, declining advertising revenue and missing earnings expectations. However, there’s one area that Twitter hopes might help investors and advertisers have a little more faith in the social platform: video.
Last year, Twitter began betting on the future of live video, landing deals with everyone from the NFL and MLB for sports to Bloomberg and BuzzFeed for politics. Those partnerships, which began bearing fruit in the fourth quarter, could be a sign of which way the blue bird is hoping to fly in 2017.
“Twitter gives advertisers the ability to reach the most engaged audiences in the right context at the right time, and we’re focusing our investments on revenue products that strengthen our unique value proposition, especially in live and video,” Twitter COO Anthony Noto in a statement. “We’re hearing positive feedback from our ad partners about our continued acceleration in audience growth and engagement.
Indeed, the company does seem to be investing more in live. And while he acknowledged that revenue will “continue to lag [behind] audience growth,” Noto said it’s part of the company’s plan to stabilize its long-term health.
“The super power we provide to the world is we can break news and get information to people faster than any service in the world,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said on Thursday morning during the company’s earnings call.
According to Warwick School of Business professor Mark Skilton, while Twitter does seem to be investing more in media streaming, the company needs to start monetizing that content—either through ads or subscriptions.
“Just like Myspace, perhaps Twitter does not what to ‘change the formula’ for fear of losing its unique simple user experience, but the shareholders and CEO Jack Dorsey are running out of time,” he said. “These figures will make it a target for a takeover if this slide continues.”
Here are stats from last quarter that show how rapidly Twitter’s live video has already grown:
- In the fourth quarter of 2016, Twitter and its partners created 600 hours of live video content from a total of 400 events.
- Last quarter, the company saw 31 million unique viewers tuning in for various types of content.
- Of the programs in the fourth quarter, 52 percent of programming was about sports, 38 percent was about news and politics and 10 percent was entertainment (such as a live Q&A with the cast of Star Wars: Rogue One).
- Around 50 percent of Twitter’s live video audience were under the age of 25, while around 33 percent of total viewers came from outside of the U.S.
- Around 4.2 million tuned in for the final U.S. presidential debate, 7.5 million tuned in for election night coverage and 8.6 million streamed Donald Trump’s inauguration.
- Twitter’s Thursday Night Football partnership with the NFL saw on average a total of around 3.5 million unique viewers per game. Of those, around 55 percent were under the age of 25, with 25 percent comprising an international audience. About 12 percent of viewers watching weren’t even logged in to Twitter.
- Last quarter, Twitter broadcasted 6.6 million hours of live video through Periscope. That total could likely see a bump again in the first quarter of 2017, now that Twitter has integrated user-generated livestreaming directly into Twitter’s flagship app.
- In the fourth quarter, ad engagement grew 151 percent year over year, which the company said was driven primarily by shifting to video ad impressions.