There’s been a lot of focus on the Premiership this week from the English media…
The world moves far too fast. Technically, it’s only spinning at around 1000 miles per hour, but here on the surface, it seems to be going a whole lot quicker. Just 11 years ago Apple released the iPhone and since then the digital world has seeped into every crevice of our lives and with it the exponential speed at which things seem to be changing each and every day.
Facebook was just a way for kids to stay in touch on university campuses. Amazon was where you sold your used books. YouTube was where we kept the funny cat videos. Now each and every one of these companies dictates how our elections play out, how we talk to our loved ones, and, perhaps most importantly, it will define how we watch our football.
This week Stephen McGowan had a wonderfully exciting exclusive in the Scottish Daily Mail, detailing how internet giants Amazon and Facebook – among a number of other companies – were preparing bids for the TV rights to the Scottish Premiership. Once long considered a two-horse race, then a one-horse race, and then back to a two-horse race, the SPFL would surely welcome competition to the stranglehold Sky Sports and BT Sports currently have over our domestic game.
Referencing Amazon’s recent acquisition of 20 English Premier League games from the 2019-20 season onwards, McGowan’s report notes that the Scottish league body are hoping such competition – and added interest due to the arrival of Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard – will push up the fee to over £40 million a year. A figure that would be double the value of the current terms.
However, it most likely won’t be the internet giants of Amazon or Facebook that come calling for Scottish football to be plastered across their platforms. Instead, the SPFL may actually find a future home on Twitter. A much smaller and altogether completely different social network.
There are a few reasons why Twitter may want Scottish football and why Scottish football may want Twitter. And when we throw them all together it may also explain why each will find one another a convenient and profitable partner.
For a start, Twitter has a completely different plan to that of Facebook or Amazon for live sports rights. On the one hand, we have Amazon, who look at TV rights as a way to expand their global appeal. The online delivery company paid $50 million to live stream 10 NFL games and then paid $13 million per year for the UK rights to the ATP World Tour. Similarly, Facebook recently tried to buy the rights to stream cricket matches in India for $600 million. Each and every one of these deals is primarily built around the idea of bringing – or, rather, keeping – as many people on their platforms as possible from around the world.
Twitter, on the other hand, is a little different. In a recent Buzzfeed News report on the company’s turnaround in fortunes, Alex Kantrowitz explains that since the little blue bird moved from “social media” to “news” in your phone’s app store it has streamlined its appeal to users and doubled down on providing live video content that allows people to tweet about something they’re watching on their phones at the very same time.
That may not sound all that different from Facebook or Amazon, but the difference is that Twitter realises that there’s more value in niche markets rather than broad, global brands. When the company pivoted towards live video for the sake of their users in 2017 then COO, Anthony Noto, told Buzzfeed: “Our objective is to give our audiences things that they’re passionate about. There are almost 300,000 followers for some of the professional dart leagues; we can serve that audience just as well as we can Boston Red Sox fans.”
Indeed, while Facebook and Amazon have dined with the English Premier League and NFL, Twitter has snapped up rights to the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). When Facebook bought the rights to Major League Baseball, Twitter doubled down and bought the rights to Major League Soccer. You can now flick open Twitter and find live video streaming at every moment of the day and most of the time you’ll have two or three live sports to choose from.
This should all be very welcoming news to Scottish football fans. Not only does the SPFL have over 131,000 followers on Twitter but the division’s two largest clubs, Celtic and Rangers, have over one million followers between them. If the NLL, NWHL or even MLS appeal to Twitter’s core tactic of engaging users on their platform then buying the rights to Scottish football should be a no-brainer.
Twitter is also a far easier sell to football fans than Amazon or Facebook. Amazon runs all of their live sports through Amazon Prime – at a cost of £5.99 per month to the customer – which would most likely be added to an already expensive collection of Sky and BT subscriptions. And while Facebook would be free – like Twitter – its platform isn’t nearly as user-friendly for finding videos or indeed streaming them while doing other things quite like its smaller, more personal alternative.
There’s also the rather obvious fact that the vast majority of football fans in Scotland are already on Twitter. While it’s hard to define just how many Scots are on Twitter (since Twitter lump us together as the United Kingdom) the reach of the platform throughout our country and indeed Scottish football’s dependence on it is clear for all to see. Each and every media company, journalist, blogger, vlogger and parody account has a twitter account. Sure, some are just as prevalent on Facebook, but there’s no doubt that if you want to reach Scottish football fans then your first port of call is to take to Twitter.
In a wider context, you need only google the term “Scottish Twitter” to find an entire portion of the internet dedicated to Scottish people running riot on the platform. Not only does Scotland love Twitter, but the world loves Scotland on Twitter too. And if the company is looking for live sports deals that could drive up engagement and views then buying the rights to show the Scottish Premiership on the website each and every week would make perfect sense.