Twitter’s NFL live streams averaged 265,800 viewers per minute across all 10 Thursday Night Football games that aired on the social network last year, based on an analysis of the viewership figures, most of which were released publicly and some that were provided by the NFL.
Twitter’s average minute audience — the same metric used to measure TV viewership — peaked at 327,000 viewers in Week 3 and bottomed out at 209,000 viewers in Week 11, after a three-game Twitter-streaming hiatus.
While Twitter’s average minute audience trended downward over the course of the season, the social network’s total in-game audience — viewers who tuned in for at least three seconds between kickoff and the final whistle — trended upward. Twitter’s total in-game audience averaged 2.7 million viewers and either increased or held week-over-week until the final two games.
The size of Twitter’s average minute audience was, on average, 10 percent the size of its total in-game viewership. Over the course of the season, the share of viewers that tuned in to the game on Twitter and tuned in long enough to count toward its average minute audience fell.
To be fair, last season’s Thursday Night Football lineup wasn’t exactly rife with must-see matchups. Of the 20 teams that played, half entered the game with a losing record. For three of the 10 games, both teams had losing records, and another three of the games could be considered blowouts, with the victor winning by at least 16 points. On the other hand, 12 of the teams ranked among the NFL’s 15 most-popular teams, according to an October 2015 Harris Poll, and eight of the games featured at least one of the 10 most popular teams.
Twitter’s average minute audience fluctuated from week to week over the course of the season. That was also the case for the TV broadcasts and for the overall digital streams, which included Twitter, as well as the NFL’s own digital properties and the digital properties of the TV networks broadcasting the game.
Week 11 was an exception to the otherwise consistent trend. While the average minute audiences for both Twitter and TV shrank that week, the overall digital audience grew by 81 percent. That coincided with NBC replacing CBS as the TV broadcaster and streaming the game on its own digital properties, as it did for the remaining games that were simulcast on Twitter.
Leading into Week 11, Twitter’s share of the total digital audience trended upward. It peaked at 85 percent in Week 7, the last Twitter simulcast before NBC overtook broadcasting duties from CBS. After Week 7, Twitter’s share only exceeded 70 percent in Week 15.
The rise in the games’ non-Twitter digital viewership may have to do with NBC’s digital properties being a more popular streaming option than CBS’s, especially coming off the Summer Olympics, which were tape-delayed on TV but streamed live on NBC’s digital properties and may have conditioned more people to watch NBC’s sports broadcasts digitally. The rise would appear to indicate that there were people who were willing to stream the games but weren’t interested in doing so on Twitter. But it’s unclear to what extent NBC’s digital streams may have curtailed Twitter’s potential viewership or cut into its existing viewership. Twitter’s viewership dip in Week 11 did coincide with non-Twitter digital’s viewership spike, but fluctuations in the two stats largely mirrored one another after that week.
Twitter declined to comment for this story.