Updated on Sept. 16 to include viewership figures for the Twitter live stream.
For its first NFL game live stream on Thursday, Twitter drew an audience of 243,000 average viewers per minute, the company said Friday. The viewership for the company's online broadcast of the New York Jets-Buffalo Bills matchup was not far behind the online viewership of the NFL's season opener and appears to have gotten Twitter off to a hot start for its package of 10 NFL Thursday Night Football games.
Additionally, Twitter's stream drew high engagement figures and a positive reaction from shareholders: Twitter's share price closed on Friday up more than 4 percent and increased an additional 0.8 percent in after-hours trading.
In total, the game drew a viewership of 2.1 million users. That figure includes users who watched the online broadcast for at least 3 seconds. The average user stuck around and streamed for 22 minutes.
A week earlier, the live stream for the NFL's season opener drew an average-minute audience of 278,000 viewers. Last year, Yahoo's online broadcast of the Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars contest drew an average of 2.36 million viewers per minute and a total audience of 15 million people. Yahoo, however, had the exclusive broadcast rights to that game. Twitter has CBS as its broadcast partner for the telecast of its games.
Counting tweets mentioning #TNF, team names, and team hashtags, Twitter's Jets-Bills game drew 255,000 tweets on Thursday, according to an analysis by Quid, an artificial intelligence-based analytics company. A similar analysis of NBC's Carolina Panthers-Denver Broncos season opener on Sept. 8 yielded 411,000 tweets, Quid said.
For Twitter, these broadcasts are part of a major effort to use the live streaming of sporting events to draw more users and advertisers, as well as shift the perception of the service.
"The company has been in the middle of a huge crisis over the past 18 months," said Stacey Wong, market analyst for FindLeadingStocks.com. "This might be a pivotal moment that will help them get their mojo back."
Twitter streamed the game on the web, on mobile, and on streaming devices such as the Apple TV.
Among the advertisers that have signed up for Twitter's Thursday night games are Anheuser-Busch InBev, Nestlé, Sony Pictures, Ford, Bank of America, and Verizon, a Twitter spokesman said. The company has been selling ad packages for the games ranging from $1 million to $8 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Looking at tweets surrounding the quality of the live stream and presentation, a sentiment analysis by Quid reveals mostly positive commentary.
"Twitter shareholders have been waiting patiently for good news from the company. Finally, they have a little," said Jose Guzman, market strategist for AnalyzeWallStreet.com. "The question going forward is, can this work over the long run? And more importantly, can the company monetize streaming, or is this a one-off?"