After Losing NFL Streaming Rights to Amazon, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey Downplays Live Video

Also talks about accountability with Trump’s tweets

COLOGNE, Germany—A year ago, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey pitched marketers on live video as being a key area of growth for the platform. Now, it appears that those ambitions have shifted slightly, likely due in some part to Amazon snagging the livestreaming rights to this year’s NFL games.

During a 30-minute talk with WPP CEO Martin Sorrell at Dmexco—the two-day digital marketing conferencing happening this week in Germany—Dorsey made multiple references to Twitter as a platform where any kind of content—text, photos, videos—can reach people with specific interests, seemingly downplaying the platform’s push into livestreaming.

One of the main topics Sorrell grilled Dorsey about during the keynote was why Twitter hasn’t achieved the same kind of momentum and advertiser interest that other tech companies have—namely the duopoly of Facebook and Google. In 2016, WPP spent $300 million with Twitter, but Sorrell expects to spend the same amount this year.

“Our clients would really like a third force,” Sorrell said. “They would like to even out, to balance out the digital ecosystem because Google and Facebook, according to most pundits, account for about 75 percent of digital advertising.”

“Our brand awareness around the world is unlike any other platform—the aspiration of our brand, what our brand stands for, is something that few companies or organizations have achieved,” Dorsey said.

The problem, he said, comes down to simplicity and finding the company’s focus. Dorsey said that narrowing the company’s focus over the past couple of years is paying off, primarily with the company’s move to start reporting daily active users. “That’s the leading indicator for how valuable we are to people and to the world,” he noted.

While platforms like Snapchat and Pinterest have eclipsed Twitter in number of active users, Dorsey played up two important aspects of Twitter: Its influential users and an open platform.

“I think a lot of people underestimate about us is the power of conversation, the power of the zeitgeist that we have on top of how people think and feel,” Dorsey said. “It’s not about these absolute numbers—it’s about the fact that you can actually go to Twitter and you can see what people actually think about what you just announced, the policies that you’ve taken down or put up.”

Shifted video strategy

Over the past couple of years, Twitter’s focus has increasingly moved towards video to increase the number of users and time spent. Twitter has also upped its live programming significantly through deals with the NFL, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed and more.

Sorrell said that live programming “has had a very significant impact,” for advertisers but Dorsey repeatedly tried to downplay video as the dominant format, instead focusing on Twitter as a source of information.

“The more that we can do to help people follow their interests in real time—whether it’s served with text or images or video or livestreams—the more relevant they’re going to be,” he said. “There is no other platform with the amount of selection and comprehensiveness that we have.”

Dorsey acknowledged that getting consumers to that information has been a challenge, and the company is using data science and machine learning to make it easier for users to find content on the platform. “It doesn’t matter if it’s text, an article, a video or a livestream. We should deliver what matters most to you in the moment with that content.”

The remarks are a departure from Dorsey’s talk last year when he strongly emphasized live video as a key area for growth. Since then, Amazon won streaming rights to this year’s NFL games.

Sorrell asked what Twitter’s relationship with Amazon will look like in terms of creating NFL content this year.