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How Twitter is leading the digital sports broadcasting revolution

When Twitter was launched in 2006, its founders surely never imagined that the platform would end up broadcasting live sport.

However, set up as a social media service, Twitter, in recent years, has made huge moves in the sports industry, signing deals to show live events including tennis from Wimbledon, golf from the PGA Tour and football from the MLS.

On the surface, all of their partnerships have worked extremely well, which has led many to believe that we are now in the midst of a move away from traditional broadcasting to social media platforms in terms of watching sport. But, is it really true?

Shift from television

“It’s possible that there has been a shift from traditional broadcasting in the sense of watching sport on a television,” says Elizabeth Stranges, sports partnerships manager at Twitter UK. “But fans are still consuming sport via broadcaster’s digital channels, as well as on social media, where available.

“Sport remains to be one of the few viewing experiences that thrives in its real-time nature and that unique format lends itself well to continued support from fans while the event is live, regardless of the channel it is streamed or broadcast on.”

As television ratings for live sport decline, one thing, for sure, is that sporting authorities are beginning to anticipate the potential weight digital outlets could hold in the commercial future of their sports.

And, with 319 million monthly users, many of whom are sports fans, and a platform which makes it easy to network with others, it’s not hard to see why Twitter is currently being preferred as sport’s primary digital broadcasting network.

“I think sporting authorities have recognised that Twitter is the perfect companion to their content,” says Stranges. “The largest topic of conversation on Twitter in the UK in 2016 was sport; bear in mind this was also the year of Brexit and Trump’s election.

“So, it’s hard to ignore that Twitter provides them with one of the best ways to reach their fans, grow their audience and join the conversation around their brands.”

World Cup coverage

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia around the corner, social media companies will be all looking to showcase the power and potential of their platforms. And Twitter is no exception.

Indeed, earlier this year, in yet another huge coup, the digital media company announced that it has signed a partnership with Fox Sports to broadcast the sports channel’s coverage of the World Cup. Undoubtedly, it sounds good, but how will it work?

“We’re very excited about the partnerships with Fox Sports,” says Stranges. “They’ll produce a daily 30-minute show on all 27 match days during the tournament, to be live-streamed exclusively on Twitter and available to logged-in and logged-out US users via @FOXSports and @FOXSoccer.

“Rachel Bonnetta will host from Moscow’s Red Square, and the show will include match previews, recaps, Twitter reactions and original segments produced by Fox Sports’ team in Moscow.

“Fox Sports will also provide “near-live video highlights” from every match to Twitter, including every goal scored, as well as videos from question-and-answer sessions with talent, interviews with players and coaches and press conferences.

“Looking at the upcoming World Cup as a topical benchmark, back in 2014, there were an incredible 672 million Tweets sent across the month-long tournament.

“And in fact, back in November we shared that there were already 50K Tweets sent purely about the draw alone at the back end of 2017. So, the momentum on Twitter is continuing.”

Competition

Indeed, the momentum is certainly in Twitter’s favour at the moment considering it has also recently signed a three-year deal with Major League Soccer to broadcast live matches, highlights and features.

However, at the same time, with the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, who already own the UK broadcasting rights to ATP tennis from 2019, all looking to expand their own sports broadcasting portfolio, Twitter could be forgiven for feeling anxious about the rising competition from other digital media outlets.

“It has been, and will continue to be, interesting to watch how various platforms will evolve in this space,” says Stranges. “But I think Twitter has a unique positioning when it comes to sport.

“People come to Twitter to see and talk about What’s Happening and rarely is that more relevant than with live sporting events given the real time nature of the conversation.”

Future

The broadcasting deals Twitter have been able to pull off and successfully implement within their platform over the last two to three years should send a shiver down the spines of the big television broadcasters as it suggests that TV may no longer be king in terms of watching sport.

Clearly, the ability to view sport and interact with others at the same time online is something which appeals to the younger generations and Twitter have shrewdly used that to their advantage.

Whether, Twitter will seek to be the host broadcaster of sporting events down the line remains to be seen, however, it’s evident that sport has now become hugely significant to the brand and its future.

“Sport partnerships are very important to Twitter,” concludes Stranges. “And we’re excited to continue working with our partners on new and innovative initiatives in the coming years.”

Feature image courtesy of Digital Sport

Essex boy Gennings is California dreaming of pro golf career

Since ‘crossing the pond’ from England to the United States in the summer, George Gennings has gone from strength to strength as he aims to become a professional golfer.

College sport is taken extremely seriously in the US, with many players on the PGA Tour taking the college golf path, including England’s former world number one and four-time Ryder Cup winner Luke Donald, who studied at Northwestern University in Chicago.

“I think it gives you a platform to build from, and gives you an experience of what playing on tour would be like” said the Essex-born Gennings.

“I am currently studying at Reedley College in California, which is about 30 minutes south of Fresno, the nearest major city, and half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles,” he said.

“I’m planning on doing my four years out in the US, and hoping to graduate with either a degree in either Business or Economics.”

A future star?

Gennings in competition at Bishops Stortford Golf Club whilst back in the UK.

Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed are just a few high-profile names that have taken the college and university route into professional golf, and Gennings is well on his way to following in their footsteps.

“If you go down say the Top 100 in the world rankings, I would guess that at least 60% of them played college golf,” said the 19-year-old.

“I am practicing every day with the team, but we don’t play any tournaments during the fall season due to CCCAA (California Community College Athletic Association) rules that only allow us to compete during the spring semester.

“I’ve played eight competitive rounds within the team as our coach runs an off-season schedule, where we play the courses that we’re going to be playing in our conference, and my current scoring average is 71.2 so I’m really pleased with that,” he said.

Culture shift

Gennings, who was the Youth Captain at Thorndon Park Golf Club whilst living in Essex, admits that the move from Brentwood to California and being separated from loved ones was a major challenge.

“The culture is very different to what I’ve grown up with, and even though I’ve been here for over four months, I’m still learning and adapting,” explained the Englishman.

“Missing home has without a doubt been the hardest thing. It’s such a tough experience being away from them, I honestly can’t describe how much I’ve missed being away from them”.

“If you go down say the Top 100 in the world rankings, I would guess that at least 60% of them played college golf” – George Gennings

British golf courses are renowned for their unpredictable conditions, whether that be due to erratic weather or difficult-to-read greens and fairways. So how has he adapted to the American course layout?

“It’s just a completely different style to back in England. That’s been the toughest thing to adapt to,” he admitted.

“I would describe it over here as target golf. There’s not as much wind so you haven’t got to worry about the ball moving in the air, no rain or cold so the ball is going to go further, and all the greens are pretty soft, so the ball isn’t going to go very far once it gets on the green. I’m slowly getting there!

“Everyone can go online and see how you’ve done, so there’s nowhere to hide”

“I feel playing out here is going to help me achieve my goal of making it pro as one week I might have a tournament in Arizona, then the next in Carolina, and that is very similar to what guys on the PGA tour face now, traveling from event to event and having to be away from family for prolonged periods of time” he said.

“You’re playing at top quality golf courses against some of the best university teams, so it will allow me to compare my abilities on the toughest stage. Everyone can go online and see how you’ve done, so there’s nowhere to hide.”

Next steps?

So, what is the process now for the 19-year-old?

“It’s mainly general studies at college at the moment. This year is more of a transition between college and university.

“I will be transferring to university next year, where I will do my major in my Junior and Senior (third and fourth) years. I’m hoping to get some funding from wherever I go and start playing in regular tournaments,” he said.

“The ultimate goal is to play professional golf, whether that is out in America, in Europe, or the Middle East. I’ll come back to England after I’ve completed my four years, sit down with my family and coach to evaluate everything, and if we both feel that I can make a living out of it then I’ll give it my best shot!”

You can follow George on Twitter @GGennings