National Lacrosse League bypasses broadcast with Twitter deal

A new live-streaming partnership with Twitter means Canadians can watch matches without buying tickets or a subscription.
sasktel centre

Canadians are about to get another way to watch the country’s other official sport.

Starting March 17, games from the National Lacrosse League will be live-streamed for free on the league’s Twitter page. Twitter users will be able to watch the NLL Game of the Week for the remainder of the 2017 season and the entirety of the 2018 season, as well as one final each from the West and East divisions and all best-of-three games in the Champion’s Cup series.

Prior the Twitter deal the only way lacrosse fans could see a game was by subscribing to NLLTV, the National Lacrosse League’s digital subscription service, or by buying tickets. The deal also marks something new for Twitter Canada, as it is the first time any games featuring Canadian professional sports teams will be streamed live on the platform.

The first NLL match to be broadcast on Twitter will see the Toronto Rock hosting the Colorado Mammoth tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. Of the seven regular season games to be streamed on Twitter, five will feature Canadian teams. The streams will be supported through pre-roll advertising, with sponsorship packages available.

Nick Sakiewicz, commissioner of the NLL, told MiC that ticket sales have seen a major boost over the past season, which led the league to look into more opportunities to reach a broader audience.

Ticket sales for the 2016 season were up 2%, while 2017 is looking to rise far beyond that, he said. Season ticket sales (purchased in the off-season) were up 28% year-over-year (for both the U.S. and Canada), and attendance for games is up an average of 15% across the entire league.

The growth is evident in Canada as well. Sakiewicz pointed to the Saskatchewan Rush, which has sold out every home game at the SaskTel Centre so far this season and has seen its average increase for regular season games increase by 27%. Sponsors added in the past season include Epoch for equipment and Sports Interaction on online gaming. It has also expanded its partnership with StringKing, which has been the official mesh provider for the past two seasons, and will now provide stick shafts and heads for the next three seasons.

Despite the tremendous growth, Sakiewicz said, the games still aren’t broadcast on television in either Canada or the U.S. He said a digital-first strategy has been prioritized by the league while it is still in the growth stage, both in terms of broadcasting and marketing. Its media efforts have all been on digital and social, with buying and planning through the Brownstein Group.

NLLTV launched late last year and is available in Canada as well as the U.S. Highlight reels, pre-game, post-game and wrap-up content is available for free, while live-streamed games are available for $34.95 per season. Subscriber numbers to NLLTV weren’t available at press time, but Sakiewicz said live-streaming through a social platform such as Twitter seemed like a logical next step due to its reach and its sports-friendly nature.

“I think the best way to unlock any sport or entertainment company is digitally,” he said. “By taking this digital-first approach we feel like we’ve made our games way more accessible.”

Sakiewicz said the league would be open to linear broadcast partnerships in the future depending on how audiences fare digitally, but the league has no immediate plans for linear broadcasting.