Twitter is hoping a slate of new shows on the platform will build user engagement—not just just passive consumption.
At the company’s IAB Digital Content NewFronts event on Monday night in Manhattan, it unveiled more than a dozen new partnerships from sports, entertainment and news brands that plan to build exclusive video content on the platform. The event was held at the music venue Terminal 5, where digital screens showcased tweets and skewers like key lime chicken tacos and lamb lollipops were served.
According to Sarah Personette, vp of Twitter’s global client solutions, this year’s slate—which includes expanded partnerships with Univision, the MLS, ESPN and others—is a shorter list of content packages that go deeper. The goal, she said in an interview after the presentation, is about getting users to “lean in,” which she said is appealing for brands that don’t want to be intrusive.
Early on in the presentation, Twitter’s executives briefly mentioned the importance of providing brand-safe content. However, many of the issues users have had with the platform—such as widespread harassment targeted at people based on gender, race and politics—were not addressed. Asked about it afterward, Personette said the company is well aware of the issues.
According to Personette, the company has already made a number of changes since its NewFront last year, including updating its policies to more proactively remove tweets that are reported as well as trying to both crowdsource reporting from users and increased monitoring by Twitter employees. She said the company has also increased its use of machine learning to identity questionable content as well as add controls for content placement.
“Health is the No. 1 priority for the company. Full stop, truly,” she said. “The role that brand safety plays in health is related to first and foremost I think the relationship that people on our platform have with each other and ensuring that it is a healthy environment for them to have conversations. And we’re also listening to advertisers to make sure their brand messages are being put in very brand-safe areas.”
The company has also been experimenting with more ways to engage with content. For the past month or two, it’s been testing new features on a beta version of Twitter called “Twittr” that experiments with new ways to more easily follow conversations within a Twitter thread. That includes color-coding users to know the original authors and also “ice-breaker” questions to drive conversation.
On stage, Sriram Krishnan, Twitter’s senior director of product, explained how the company is changing the way it allows for content discovery. For example, at the top of the app, Twitter has begun placing topics that it believes a user cares about to make it easier to jump right into a topic rather than making them search for it.
“We don’t want people passively watching when the Yankees win the World Series,” he said. “We want you all actively participating, and it’s all going to start the moment you open the app, because right at the top of the timeline, it’s easier and faster than ever before to see what people are talking about right now.”
Here’s a list of the new slate of content.
To further serve Hispanic users on Twitter, the company is expanding its partnership with Univision, with Spanish-language content across sports, news and entertainment. That will include the 2020 election as well as soccer highlights from Liga MX and UEFA Champions League. Univision will also cover music awards including Premios Juventud, the singing competition Reina de La Canción and the dancing reality show Mira Quién Baila.
Twitter is also expanding its content for U.S. sports leagues. With the NFL, it will extend programs for video highlights from games and key NFL events as well as interviews and fan polls. Through The Players’ Tribune, Twitter will stream a new talk show called “Don’t @ Me,” which will feature athletes debating the “greatest of all time” in various sports. ESPN and Bleacher Report are also extending their video content, which will include highlights and a variety of franchise shows from linear TV, while Blizzard Entertainment will stream content from esports events like BlizzCon.
The MLS is also extending its partnership with Twitter through 2022, which will include more live matches and also video posts about every goal. In an interview before the event, MLS svp of media Chris Schlosser wouldn’t disclose how large its audience is on Twitter, but said Twitter is drawing double the sizes it had through a similar partnership with Facebook in 2017.
“We think it performs really well for live events,” he said. “Many times when I’m following along with a live event whether it’s sports or Game of Thrones, you’re watching on Twitter as much as you’re watching on TV. You’re doing both.”
Twitter, which has pitched itself for years as a destination for “what’s happening,” is also building out a number of video partnerships with major news organizations. The Wall Street Journal will be creating a new video franchise for Twitter called WSJ What’s Now that will feature reporting, analysis and events coverage for a business audience.
Bloomberg is extending its TicToc franchise that will cover major events like the G20 Summit, United Nations General Assembly and the World Economic Forum. On the tech front, CNET will cover major tech events like Mobile World Congress and CES, as well as guides for what to buy or know about across tech products. Time is also bringing more content exclusively to Twitter such as insights for how it picks its annual Person of the Year and the Time 100 list.
Entertainment is also an area of growth on Twitter. This fall, Live Nation plans to debut a series about concerts and festivals that will include 10 concerts in 10 weeks with 10 artists. That content will include event coverage from festivals like Governors Ball in New York City, Bonnaroo in Tennessee and Lollapalooza in Chicago. Meanwhile, Viacom will be bringing the MTV VMA “Stan Cam” to Twitter to let fans create their own livestream. Viacom will also be bringing increased red carpet coverage for BET, CMT and MTV.