By Tim Baysinger
(Reuters) - Twitter said it was able to deliver more viewers than promised to advertisers on an election night livestream, good news for the microblogging site as it tries to ward off growing competition for ad dollars from Snapchat and Instagram.
Twitter Inc partnered with BuzzFeed to host their election night broadcast on Tuesday and attracted major advertisers, including Paramount Pictures, Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle,” Activision Blizzard’s “Call of Duty,” Johnnie Walker and Izod.
San Francisco-based Twitter declined to say how much it charged brands to be included in the livestream, but said by email that it overdelivered between two to three times on its live ad impressions that were guaranteed, meaning advertisers' content was viewed by more people than had been promised.
Twitter handled the ad sales, and split half the revenue with Buzzfeed, according to a source familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The overperformance for advertisers came at a much-needed time for Twitter, which has staked its future on video. The company has made a point of getting advertisers to move toward video buys instead of in-feed text and photo-based ads as a way of stemming its declining ad revenue growth.
On Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain, a key figure in building Twitter's ad business, announced he was leaving the company in what was seen as a big blow. Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto, who attended BuzzFeed's election night broadcast in New York, will replace Bain while still holding his current title until the company finds a new CFO.
At least one of the advertisers, PVH Corp’s Izod, is eager to work with Twitter more in the future.
“We’re going to look long and hard about increasing our presence there,” said Mike Kelly, executive vice president of The Marketing Group, PVH’s in-house agency. “We walked away a bit changed in our point of view.”
Izod ran a 60-second video featuring presidential debate sensation Ken Bone in his trademark red Izod sweater; BuzzFeed also had Bone on during the broadcast, and many BuzzFeed staffers wore Bone’s trademark sweater.
The Buzzfeed broadcast began around 6 p.m. (2300 GMT) and ended sometime after midnight (0500 GMT), and was watched by a total of 6.8 million unique viewers. The average minute audience, the best metric to use when comparing to a TV audience, was 165,000 viewers globally. By comparison, Fox News drew 12.2 million viewers.
Hosting BuzzFeed’s stream was seen as a bit of an upset for Twitter, as most had expected BuzzFeed to work with Facebook instead. Unlike Facebook Live, Twitter’s video strategy more closely mimics what viewers see on television.
The company has signed deals with numerous U.S. professional and college sports leagues, most notably with the National Football League, in an effort to both increase its stalled user base and court larger advertisers that have traditionally worked with television, but are looking to reach consumers who are not subscribed to a cable TV package.
(This version of the story corrects paragraph 6 to show that Noto is Bain's permanent, not interim, successor)
(Reporting by Tim Baysinger in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)