Twitter Wants To Stream Live Video Programming 24/7

by Alex Kantrowitz on April 26, 2017

Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters

Get ready for nonstop live video inside Twitter.

The company, which reports first quarter earnings Wednesday, plans to air live video 24 hours a day, 7 day a week inside its apps and desktop site, building on the 800+ hours it aired in the first three months of 2017, Twitter COO and CFO Anthony Noto told BuzzFeed News. Call it Twitter TV or The Twitter Network, the always-on realization of Twitter’s current live video offering of sports, news and entertainment programming is on its way.

“We will definitely have 24/7 content on Twitter,” Noto said during an extensive interview about the company’s live video strategy last week. “Our goal is to be a dependable place so that when you want to see what’s happening, you think of going to Twitter.”

Twitter's Anthony Noto

Ellian Raffoul

Noto's assertion follows the loss of Twitter's cornerstone NFL deal to Amazon. But despite losing the rights to stream the package of Thursday night games, Twitter is seeing enough benefit from live video to make it a pillar of its growth and revenue strategy. Live video is driving up conversation volume on the platform, Noto said, and it’s helping Twitter offer the type of 15 and 30 second unskippable video ads for which advertisers typically write big checks to TV networks.

Twitter will take some time to reach its 24/7 programming goal, Noto said, without offering a timetable. But he indicated much more programming in the works. “We’re working on many, many things,” Noto said. “There’s a lot in the pipeline.”

The engagement live video is driving on Twitter stems in part from the company’s decision to heavily promote it. Twitter is auto-playing videos inside its desktop site, and airing them live from its relatively-new Explore tab. And the company's decision to do so has resulted in some sizable viewership numbers. Twitter’s NFL package averaged 3.5 million unique viewers and its Oscars pre and post shows brought in a combined 6.4 million. Meanwhile, its live inauguration day coverage from PBS netted some 8.6 million unique viewers. (BuzzFeed partnered with Twitter on an Election Day show which drew about 7.7 million unique viewers.)

Next week, Twitter will pitch advertisers on the value of spending big bucks to reach its audience at its first ever NewFronts event. The company will introduce a handful of new shows in hopes of landing some big upfront ad buys from top tier sponsors. Noto declined to go into detail about what’s coming.

First And Goal

Twitter loudly touted its 2016 NFL deal in press releases and earnings calls last year, so losing it to Amazon the following year wasn’t a great look. But the company has some ideas about other programming that might fill the NFL’s shoes — the Ultimate Fighting Championship. “We have a really big audience when there’s a pay per view UFC match,” Noto said. “Should we provide that content to the audience on Twitter that’s not watching it, but might like to after seeing tweets about it? That’s something we’d consider.”

Meanwhile, the $10 million Twitter spent on last year’s NFL package should continue working for it even after Amazon airs a similar set of games for $50 million next season. Twitter’s NFL deal helped it plant a flag in the live video marketplace, letting programmers know it was dead serious about live, and demonstrating an infrastructure that could handle millions of viewers tuning in at once.

“It was instrumental [in generating additional interest],” Noto said of the NFL deal, declining comment on the premium Amazon seems to have paid for it. “It’s a really high profile brand and one that has really high expectations for product quality. It caused people to come and see if we could deliver.”

One entity that took notice of Twitter’s NFL deal was 120 Sports — a joint venture between MLB Advanced Media, the National Hockey League, and a handful of other big sports media brands and leagues. 120 Sports began airing a sports highlights show called The Rally exclusively on Twitter in September 2016, and its CEO Jason Coyle said the company's NFL deal played a role in the decision to do so. “We could see that our deal was not going to be a one off,” Coyle told BuzzFeed News. “We didn't want to just throw the show out there exclusively with a partner that wasn’t that serious about growing.”

Shows like The Rally — a cheap to produce, laid back version of ESPN’s Sportscenter — give Twitter the less polished, less expensive programming it needs to fill its airtime. Noto said the company will always look for a combination of ultra-premium content and not-so-ultra-premium-content. So Twitter needs Rally-like programming. Indeed, it’s already airing similarly not-so-ultra-premium shows from financial news network Cheddar and the NBA, which is now programming a sports talk show called The Starters exclusively for Twitter.

From Twitter’s perspective, becoming a source of always-on-in-the-background video in the way that CNBC is in airports would be a great outcome. “We think that is a great way to have the programming carried along with you during your day,” Noto said. “Focus in on it when you hear something that’s of interest, but then maybe not be 100% focused on it when it’s not of interest. I did that myself during the debates.”

That kind of video falls into a category Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners calls “Ambient digital video,” which he believes exploits a gap left by digital video services like Netflix and HBO Now, which are always looking for your full attention. Liew told BuzzFeed News in an email that Twitter may have hit on a potentially big opportunity here. “If Twitter can own this use case, it may be a complement to the Netflix and Amazon use cases,” he said.

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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Palantir Cofounder Says “Social Justice Warriors” Helped Create Trump

by Nitasha Tiku on April 26, 2017

Moderator Katy Steinmetz from Time magazine, Crowdpac CEO Steve Hilton, Joe Lonsdale, general partner at 8VC, and Y Combinator's Sam Altman (left to right)

J Rumans Photography

On Monday night, in the basement of a posh coworking space in downtown San Francisco, about 200 people gathered to hear the umpteenth panel discussion about how Silicon Valley should deal with Donald Trump. This event, however, had something most industry gatherings don't: a conservative bent.

Speakers included libertarian Joe Lonsdale, a Palantir cofounder turned high-profile venture capitalist; Steve Hilton, the CEO of the political startup Crowdpac, who has an upcoming show about populism on Fox; and Sam Altman, who runs Y Combinator’s parent company. The event was hosted by Lincoln Network, a right-of-center San Francisco-based political group whose motto is “where liberty and technology meet,” and whose logo used to be a drawing of Abraham Lincoln wearing pair of Google Glass. (With Glass on life support, now the logo is a drawing of Lincoln sporting noise-cancelling headphones favored by engineers or an Oculus Rift.) Panelists defended billionaire Elon Musk’s decision to join Trump’s business advisory council against the backlash that played out on social media. “This is one of the least healthy things that has happened to our country, really, in the last five or 10 years — is this kind of online mobs of social justice warriors trying to take [you] down if you misspeak,” said Lonsdale.

“— There’s your quote for tomorrow,” said Altman, calling back to a prediction that Lonsdale’s made earlier in the evening: if you “screw up” talking about Trump, your quote shows up in the newspaper. The crowd — which included political consultants who advise tech people, tech people who advise politicians, a representative from the Cato Institute, various associates of billionaire Peter Thiel, and the occasional beer bottle rolling past the folding chairs on the concrete floor — cracked up.

“I can’t help myself, that’s why I shouldn’t do this in public,” Lonsdale said, explaining that groups who use social media to “demonize their foes” helped trigger the rise of Trump. “Ironically,” Lonsdale argued, “the same people who are saying, ‘You’re not allowed to work with [Trump] at all. We’re going to attack you, even if you think you’re trying to help the country,’ They have a responsibility for causing this in the first place.”

Nitasha Tiku / BuzzFeed News

Lonsdale’s media prediction came at the start of the panel, when he claimed that he wasn’t expecting to discuss Trump. “Actually, Sam [Altman] and I were going to do a debate earlier on the future of jobs, and I just had my first kid a few weeks ago and I found out today we’re talking about Trump instead, which is terrifying because it’s slightly less easy to talk about in public. But anyways, this is better because now I can give a quote and be on the front page the next day if we screw up!”

Lonsdale’s comments were hardly a screwup, certainly not with this crowd. Since before the election, prominent members of Silicon Valley’s priesthood have argued for more tolerance and acceptance towards Trump’s supporters (now his collaborators). This argument has persisted even as Trump’s actions in the first 100 days have actively undermined sacrosanct Silicon Valley causes like fighting climate change (Musk’s corporate raison d'etre), and promoting immigration of highly skilled workers.

On the panel, Altman — an independent who dines out on his anti-Trump stance — also insisted that cooperation with Trump was necessary. But the panelists’ hyper-awareness to the media doesn’t always stretch to self-awareness about Silicon Valley’s role in creating polarized public discussion. “I think absolutism is bad in any form and it has gotten us into this current mess we’re in,” said Altman. “The Internet has amplified the two-party political system so much and pushed us to the extremes of both parties that they’re both kind of imploding on themselves.”

“People can engage in different ways. Some people will run the resistance, some people will run for office, some people will join [Trump’s] advisory board, whatever that is, but I don’t think it’s an acceptable option to say I’m going to completely disengage and do nothing,” Altman argued, building up the image of a plug-your-ears progressive that doesn't accurately describe his critics.

Hilton, who was David Cameron’s BFF until Hilton started backing Brexit, is better known as the husband of Rachel Whetstone, Uber’s very recently departed head of policy and communications, and he had his own caveat about the media.

Through his relationship with Whetstone, “I did see the dynamics of that unfold, for perspective, that’s all I’m saying, so I don’t want a headline about that,” Hilton said.

“Can we get the inside story?” Altman, butted in, asking the question on everyone’s mind.

Perhaps part of their willingness to cooperate stems from the fact that Trump’s policies are pro-business. “If we don’t figure out a way to unrig the system, which is currently in favor of a small number of deeply entrenched interests, then we’re going to continue to have a lack of economic justice and deeply frustrated people and candidates like this,” Altman argued. (In this case, he was talking about San Francisco real estate developers and not Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google, which have recently been under antitrust attack.)

Lonsdale’s latest effort, 8 VC, is a group of financiers and entrepreneurs, who raised more than $300 million to make a positive impact on the world. He told the crowd that he was most bothered by Trump’s immigration policy, which went against Silicon Valley’s culture. “I thought it was a mess and I thought it was bad branding for our country.”

But even there, Lonsdale saw a silver lining in increasing salaries for highly-skilled tech workers, and his own personal communication with the administration about top computer scientists who are unable to get visas to attend a computer science competition. “I sent an email to my friends at the White House at the request of a couple of CEOs a few days away — 'This is ridiculous. This is obviously bad for our country not to allow the people who are being invited here, the top computer scientists, to compete. We should get them visas.' And my friends there agreed and said they’d work on it. So I guess that’s a positive thing I’d say: is there are a lot of practical good people who seem to be winning out in terms of how the White House works.”

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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