Twitter to stream Thursday night NFL games in 2016 season

(Reuters) - The National Football League has chosen Twitter as its exclusive global partner for streaming its Thursday night games during the 2016 regular season, the parties said on Tuesday, a deal that could help the social media site expand its user base.

CBS Corp CBS.N and Comcast Corp CMCSA.O unit NBC, which won the broadcast rights in February, could also gain more viewers via Twitter, TV executives said.

Twitter Inc TWTR.N spokesman Brian Poliakoff declined to disclose the financial terms, or elaborate on how the games would be streamed. But technology news website Re/code, citing people familiar with the bidding process, reported that Twitter paid less than $10 million for the streaming rights.

The deal comes as sports fans are increasingly relying on the Internet to watch video at the expense of traditional cable and satellite connections. Livestreaming the games would give Twitter a new avenue to attract users as it tries to catch up with rival social networks like Facebook Inc FB.O, which has over a billion users.

The NFL partnership helps cement Twitter’s position as a destination for live video, said Tom Richardson, president of consulting firm Convergence Sports & Media.

“I don’t think it’s going to cannibalize viewership at all,” CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said. “I don’t see people turning off their televisions and watching the game on Twitter.”

“The fact that our national commercials are running on the Twitter feed is a big benefit,” he said.

An NBC spokesman declined to comment.

Twitter will livestream 10 games for free to the more than 800 million people who use its service, as well as non-registered users.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said users would be able to watch the games “right on Twitter.”

Under the deal, Twitter can sell local ads off the games, but national ads, which make up about 85 percent of the spots during the games, will be sold by CBS and NBC.

Twitter outbid a number of companies, including Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N, Yahoo Inc YHOO.O and Inc AMZN.O to win the deal, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the news. Facebook Inc FB.O dropped out of the bidding last week, the report said.

Facebook, Yahoo, Verizon and Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

Twitter’s stock hit an all-time low in February after the company said its user growth stalled for the first time since it went public in 2013.

As of Tuesday’s close of $17.05, the stock had fallen 26 percent this year.

Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Sai Sachin R,; Editing by Ted Kerr and Richard Chang