Maybe people’s interest in watching live broadcasts on Twitter is growing in general. Or maybe people are more into watching two people talking on Twitter than two teams playing football.
More people tuned into Bloomberg Politics’ presidential debate live stream on Twitter Sunday night than have tuned into any one of the three Thursday Night Football games syndicated on Twitter so far this season. The debate didn’t only beat out football in total number of viewers but also in the average number of viewers for any given minute during the live stream.
On Sunday night, 3.2 million people watched at least three seconds of the presidential debate live stream, compared to 3.1 million who checked out last week’s Thursday Night Football game on Twitter. And the debate’s audience averaged 369,000 viewers per minute — a metric that networks and advertisers use to measure TV shows’ audiences — whereas the Thursday Night Football game’s live stream averaged 236,000 viewers per minute.
There could be any number of reasons why the debate received more attention than the Thursday night game: people’s interests may have been piqued by Donald Trump’s latest scandal; more people may be around to watch on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET than Thursday at 9 p.m. ET; or Arizona-San Francisco is an even less thrilling matchup when one team’s starting quarterback is sidelined.
But this wasn’t the first time a presidential debate’s viewership on Twitter beat out an NFL game’s viewership on Twitter. The first debate streamed on Twitter in late September received 2.5 million total viewers and averaged 344,000 viewers per minute. The Thursday Night Football game broadcast on Twitter the prior week received 2.2 million total viewers and averaged 327,000 viewers per minute.
The debate live stream viewership exceeding the Thursday Night Football live stream audience isn’t the only pattern here. Each live stream’s audience was larger than the last. The first debate may have beat out the second NFL game, but the third NFL game beat out the first debate, and now the second debate has beat out the third NFL game. Now we’ll have to see if that pattern holds for this week’s Thursday Night Football game (and wonder how much of the boost had to do with Twitter putting the broadcasts on its home page, like Yahoo did).