Early into every NFL preseason, teams practice without pads. It’s a way to shake off the rust without risking injury. A couple months ahead of livestreaming regular season NFL games on Twitter, the social network held its own version of this kind of practice.
On Wednesday Twitter tested out a livestream of tennis grand slam event, Wimbledon, but without any actual tennis. For roughly seven hours people were able to tune into a livestream of people talking about Wimbledon. The closest people got to tuning into Twitter to watch a live match were the post-match interviews with the players who had competed in them.
Asked why Twitter didn’t air any actual matches during the livestream, a Twitter spokesperson said the point was just to test the platform’s livestreaming functionality, which may have been made easier by the lack of compelling content on the level of live sports. It also might have to do with ESPN owning U.S. digital livestreaming rights for Wimbledon matches through 2023 and how much money Twitter may have had to pay ESPN to piggyback its exclusivity.
So was the test a success? Hard to say. For its part, Twitter won’t say how many people tuned into the livestream, whether it made money from the livestream or paid money to Wimbledon owner, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, or ESPN to host the livestream.
And if you missed the livestream, you missed the livestream. Twitter has no plans to post the recorded version, according to the company spokesperson. The only remnant of Twitter’s Wimbledon livestream is the page on which it aired, which shows the video player and a stream of Wimbledon-related tweets. Conceivably pairing the livestream and a live Twitter feed is the entire point of what Twitter has to offer the NFL for its livestreams later this year, even if the look of the livestream wasn’t that different from livestreams on YouTube, Facebook and Amazon’s Twitch.