Twitter has clinched a deal with the National Football League to live-stream 10 “Thursday Night Football” broadcasts worldwide next season, the companies announced Tuesday (April 5).

Under the deal, the NFL has selected Twitter as its exclusive partner to deliver a live OTT digital stream of the games for free worldwide. Twitter will carry the 10 “Thursday Night Football” games broadcast by NBC and CBS, which will also be simulcast on NFL Network.

Twitter will provide free, live streaming video of “Thursday Night Football” without authentication on mobile phones, tablets, PCs and connected TVs. In addition to the live games, the partnership includes in-game highlights from “TNF” as well as pre-game live broadcasts on Twitter’s Periscope from players and teams before, during and after games.

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Twitter won the deal with the NFL against a field of bidders that included Facebook, Verizon and Amazon. In an interview with Variety last month, Facebook VP of partnerships Dan Rose confirmed the social service was interested in the NFL games. But Facebook reportedly backed out because it did not want the games to carry advertising.

“Twitter is where live events unfold and is the right partner for the NFL as we take the latest step in serving fans around the world live NFL football,” says NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. “There is a massive amount of NFL-related conversation happening on Twitter during our games and tapping into that audience, in addition to our viewers on broadcast and cable, will ensure ‘Thursday Night Football’ is seen on an unprecedented number of platforms this season.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey adds, “This is about transforming the fan experience with football. People watch NFL games with Twitter today. Now they’ll be able to watch right on Twitter Thursday nights.”

The Twitter-NFL pact for “Thursday Night Football” builds on their previous partnership for the Twitter Amplify advertising program, which kicked off in 2013. Last summer they extended the partnership with a two-year deal under which sponsored video clips and other content will be tweeted to fans on a daily basis year-round.

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The NFL was shopping OTT rights for the 2016-17 regular-season games in addition to the U.S. TV deals it had already secured, looking to slice up rights to its marquee live games ever more finely.

CBS and NBC each will carry five “Thursday Night Football” games, while eight other games to be broadcast only on NFL Network will comprise Thursday night games, late-season Saturday match-ups and games played overseas. Those networks all have rights to stream the games online to U.S. pay-TV subscribers on an authenticated basis.

The NFL’s OTT streaming feeds will include ads sold by the TV networks, according to sources, although Twitter may tap that inventory for viewers outside the U.S.

Last season, Yahoo became the first digital distributor to deliver a free, global live stream of a regular season NFL game. The Oct. 25 match-up between Buffalo and Jacksonville garnered an audience of 15.2 million viewers who watched at least part of the live stream.

Posted by:Todd Spangler, Variety