Twitter's Fortunes Rise As Video Business Ramps Up

Twitter has long been in the peculiar position of being widely known by the general public (President Trump’s tweets often dominate the news cycle), while also being used by a relatively small set of the population, at least compared to rivals like Facebook.

Without the scale of Facebook, Twitter made a strategic decision a few years ago to focus on video, specifically live video, to reenergize its business prospects.

It's still early in the game, but the company’s potential in the video business is becoming clearer every day. While Netflix is focused on on-demand entertainment content, and Facebook and Snapchat prioritize both slickly produced evergreen  and amateur content, Twitter has focused its video ambitions on live, premium video. “Live” is the key word here.

To that end, the company has signed dozens of deals with sports leagues (the company has live baseball and basketball deals, although not for the same content that airs on national TV), as well as news organizations (Buzzfeed News has a daily morning show, “AM to DM” on Twitter, and Bloomberg launched its 24 hour TicToc news channel on the platform) to bolster its live lineup.

The company has also inked deals for short-term content about major events, like the upcoming daily World Cup show being produced by Fox.

That live content is becoming a selling point, something its larger competitors don’t offer.

"We continue to believe the user value proposition of Twitter’s platform is becoming more differentiated & compelling,” wrote JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth in a recent research note. “We view Twitter as much more about real-time news, information, & discussion. And as Facebook shifts more toward friends & family content in the NewsFeed and Snap’s redesign also clearly separates social from media, we believe Twitter becomes even better positioned to capture 'what’s happening right now.'”

JPMorgan projects Twitter’s ad revenue will rise by about 15% in 2018, compared to a decline of -7% that the company saw in 2017. At the same time, the company’s cost per engagement (CPE) is projected to decline by -40% year over year, improving the value proposition for advertisers.

In some respects, Twitter’s early embrace of video, with clear focus on the live format, is paying off. While Facebook is a very popular source of video content, that viewership is split between short-form (and sometimes low quality) content for its news feed, complemented by the professional, premium content in Facebook Watch. Likewise, Snapchat prioritizes slickly produced and packaged content from media partners in its app, resulting in content that is high quality but takes time to produce.

Now, Twitter wants to make sure the video it runs on its platform has an audience. Last year, the company launched its “#SeeEverySide” branding campaign on digital platforms and TV shows like the ESPYs. 

On Sunday, that campaign continued with an ad that aired during ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards keyed in to the “#MeToo” movement, with a female lead reading a poem about women’s empowerment, ending with the hashtag “#HereWeAre.”

The Oscars remain one of the last great non-sports live events on TV, and Twitter’s presence was no coincidence. The company is betting that it can win users back to consume its video content, even if they don’t want to follow every tweet. 

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