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Twitter impresses advertisers with BuzzFeed U.S. election livestream

By Tim Baysinger

Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) said it was able to deliver more viewers than promised to advertisers on a U.S. 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 partnered with BuzzFeed to host an election night broadcast on Tuesday and attracted major advertisers, including Paramount Pictures, Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) “Man in the High Castle,” Activision Blizzard Inc’s (ATVI.O) “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.

Video from advertisers fetches higher rates than text and photo-based ads and is seen as key revenue source for Twitter. Snapchat has been building up its ad sales team ahead of next year’s IPO and Instagram will take a larger role in growing Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) ad revenue.

At least one of the advertisers, PVH Corp’s (PVH.N) Izod, is eager to work with Twitter more in the future.

Izod ran a 60-second video featuring presidential debate sensation Ken Bone in his trademark red Izod sweater.

“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.”

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 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 an average minute audience of 12.2 million.

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 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.

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.

Shares of Twitter closed up nearly 1 percent at $18.55 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Tim Baysinger in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

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