X Media™ Company

X Continues to Build Out its Video Content Slate via New Deal with The Big 3

Yeah, I’m not certain that X’s “video first” strategy is going to work out, based on Twitter’s past efforts along the exact same lines.

Last month, X outlined its new video content approach, declaring that video would be its main growth focus, given that video drives the most engagement in the app, and is already a part of 80% of user sessions.

In order to build on this, X has since announced various new exclusive video content partnerships, with its latest, unveiled today, being a new deal with The Big 3, the three-on-three basketball league for retired NBA players.

As part of the new arrangement, X will host “live games, groundbreaking access, and exclusive content”, as it becomes the new home for Big 3 basketball on the web.

And it’s an interesting addition, in terms of niche sports content, and given more recent ratings trends for the Big 3, it could also help to drive significantly more engagement among X’s rusted-on sports communities, who remain highly active in the app.

According to The Source, Big 3 broadcasts outperformed Premier League Soccer, WNBA, and Premier Lacrosse League games in average viewer numbers in the U.S. last year. And while it’s not going to bring in anywhere near NBA or NFL broadcast numbers, it is still driving impressive viewership stats as an alternative major league offering.

The Big 3 has also been helped by more recent appearances from online basketball influencers, who’ve built huge followings on TikTok and Instagram, and are now bringing these audiences across to the league.

So there is potential there, and it is a logical and likely beneficial pairing for X as part of its expanded video content vision.

But as noted, the company formerly known as Twitter has walked this path before, and it failed to deliver as hoped.

Back in 2016, Twitter made a big push on video content, and live sports in particular, by signing exclusive contracts with the MLB, NFL, and NBA to broadcast games directly in the app. The idea was that with so many people engaging with live sports already in the app, Twitter would be able to merge the two, and benefit not only from the real-time engagement, but also the content itself, in its first steps to ideally becoming a sports hosting powerhouse.

But it didn’t work.

While millions of fans did tune in for some of Twitter’s live sports events, the actual engagement numbers were nowhere close to the live TV ratings for each event. And given the premium pricing for sports content rights, Twitter eventually decided that there was no significant value-add in hosting the broadcasts themselves, when they were benefiting from the related engagement either way.  

Interestingly, Twitter then looked to host more niche sports streams, in an effort to become more of a broad-ranging hub for non-mainstream sports content. But eventually, it lost interest in that as well, presumably because the engagement gains were not worth the fees and related hosting costs.

But now, under its new X branding, the platform’s trying out the same strategy again, in an effort to drive more video content engagement.

And maybe it will work out better this time, especially given the rising video engagement rates in the app (as noted above), and the efforts that the X team is going to to push vertical video viewing as a new entertainment and advertising option.

Maybe there is opportunity there. And while it is early days, X is also gradually building out a diverse slate of shows, primarily aimed at U.S. audiences.

  • Paris Hilton is set to host a yet to be announced project (though the relationship between X and Hilton has seemingly soured of late)
  • Tucker Carlson’s X program has been an early success, regularly generating millions of views in the app
  • Don Lemon will launch his new “Don Lemon Show” soon
  • Tulsi Gabbard is developing a series of documentary-style programs focused on U.S. politics
  • Jim Rome’s “The Jungle” will soon be airing five times a week
  • WWE recently announced “WWE Speed”, a weekly show exclusively on X

Given that the majority of X users are outside of America, it would make sense for X to be making similar pushes in other regions, as well. But again, it is early days, and it will take time to get more people viewing X as an entertainment alternative, as opposed to a complementary app.

So will it work?

Look, past history would suggest that this won’t be a long-term strategic driver for the app, as viewer numbers stagnate, and creators realize that they can make a lot more money by airing their exclusive content in other apps and platforms (note: Tucker Carlson is already building his own broadcast home base).

Over time, what happened on Twitter past was that both sides realized that there was no real strategic alignment that they couldn’t already facilitate without such partnerships, but there is also a chance that the more recent shift in treating social apps as entertainment sources in their own right could lead to expanded potential on this front.

Time will tell, but it is interesting to see the X team treading essentially the same ground, and touting it as a new vision for the app’s future.

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