Can Live Broadcasts Like “Thursday Night Football” Save Twitter?

twitter-logo-2Last night’s simulcast of Thursday Night Football marked Twitter Inc’s (NYSE:TWTR) initial foray into live streaming, and the response was pretty good.

The matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets offered users the chance to watch the exact same broadcast that aired on CBS TV, with live Twitter commentary of the game alongside of the video. The company will stream nine more NFL games this year as well.

While the game stream was met with mostly positive reviews, some users complained of constant buffering, while others we disappointed with the fact that the game was up to 30 seconds behind the live television broadcast. That delay meant that some users would see spoiler commentary of plays they hadn’t seen yet.

NFL players themselves took note of the broadcast as well. Pittsburgh Steelers star running back DeAngelo Williams tweeted that it “Took 5-seconds watching #TNF on [Twitter] to know this is the wave of the future.”

Twitter is hoping the live streams of NFL games will spur better user engagement on its platform, which has fallen well behind rivals like Facebook in terms of user growth and average time spent within the app. Should the initial games prove successful, users can expect to see plenty more streaming events as well.

Of course, the rights to stream such games come at a big cost. But the extra attention gained from them could be worth it in the long run, and could actually transform the company into a streaming/social media hybrid play over time.

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Twitter shares rose $0.57 (+3.11%) to $18.87 in premarket trading Friday. Year-to-date, TWTR has still fallen 20.92%.