Peter Kafka

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Twitter Snags the NFL for Another Ad Win

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport

Here’s another high-profile ad win for Twitter as it gears up for its IPO: A big partnership with the NFL, which will bring video highlights and other content from America’s most popular sport to the social network.

The pact is one of Twitter’s Amplify deals, which let TV programmers distribute short video clips, preceded by even shorter video ads, on the service. Both Twitter and the programmers are able to sell the ads, and share the revenue.

Twitter has done a series of these deals, with networks and programmers like Viacom, Major League Baseball and Fox, starting last spring. Earlier this week it announced a pact with CBS.

The revenue the deals generate for the company is nice. Also important: The messaging that surrounds them, which is that Twitter is trying to help advertisers and TV programmers build out the TV ecosystem — by directing people to TV sets, and by helping TV advertisers reinforce their TV spots —  instead of trying to siphon money away from it.

It’s certainly possible that if Twitter keeps growing, it may one day end up competing with the TV ecosystem for eyeballs and dollars. But for now, the Twitter TV pitch has lots of fans.

“Twitter understands the value of incremental consumption and engagement,” said Brian Rolapp, the NFL’s chief operating officer. “That means they’re able to do things with people like us that perhaps other people in social media or technology in general are not. It’s not by happenstance that we’re doing this with them.”

The NFL deal is also a good example of the care Twitter and its TV partners need to take to make sure video on the service doesn’t cannibalize existing businesses.

For instance, the NFL will only send out in-game highlight clips during the Thursday night games that it carries on its own NFL Network. On Sundays and on Monday nights, when Fox, NBC and ESPN have the rights to the games, it will wait until they’re over before it sends out clips.

It’s also not a coincidence that Verizon Wireless has signed on as a primary sponsor for the new ads. Verizon is already paying the NFL $1 billion over four years to show the games to its subscribers; looping the carrier into the Twitter deal is a signal that the league doesn’t want to disrupt that partnership, either.

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