Twitter’s Debate Livestreams Drawing More Viewers Than Football

Twitter might have been onto something when the company reclassified themselves as a News app in Apple’s App Store back in April of this year…

Despite a promising start to the company’s Thursday Night Football livestreams, the circus known as the 2016 presidential election is drawing more of a crowd than any of the NFL games have thus far. After two Twitter debate livestreams featuring Clinton & Trump, plus the VP debate last week, the company’s bet on politics is paying off—at least, so far, in viewership numbers.

While total views between the debates and TNF are similar, the metric media companies (and advertisers) care about most is viewers per minute. The latest Twitter debate livestream registered 369,000 viewers per minute, which was an increase of around 25k over the first presidential show-down. Meanwhile, NFL broadcasts on Twitter peaked at 327,000 viewers per minute, and only reached 236,000 in last week’s game.

Twitter shouldn’t be down on those NFL numbers, though. The latest TNF simulcast on Twitter drew 3.1 million viewers, up from the inaugural broadcast (2.3 million) and the week following (2.6 million). The number is particularly impressive, not only because of the week-over-week increase, but because Arizona’s starting QB, Carson Palmer, was sidelined for the game.

The audience for the presidential debates is inherently higher than a Thursday-night football game between just two teams (last Sunday’s debate drew 66 million viewers total, while the first TNF game of the season totaled 16 million); and the two events are hardly comparable in importance or scope. What this data does mean to Twitter—and advertisers (or potential suitors)—is that the social network’s diversified media strategy can help them reach unique audiences in real-time.

What will really be interesting, as we’ve been saying all along, is how this viewership translates to new users and advertising dollars. Those, I’m afraid, will be the only bottom-line numbers anybody remembers about Twitter’s livestream experiment when it’s all said-and-done.