Twitter loses the NFL but wins the... nothing at all while Jack Dorsey is still CEO
Big news from Twitter! The company is launching “a new version that uses less data [and] loads more quickly on slow connections.”
They’re calling it “Twitter Just Lost The Rights To Stream NFL Games”
Yep, another week brings another blow for Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey who will surely be devastated to hear the NFL news when he next ambles from Square to the Twitter office the day after tomorrow (or perhaps Monday maybe Tuesday.)
When he does finally show up at his desk, Dorsey will presumably want answers why the NFL chose to yank its games from his Trump-enabling white nationalist message board and handed them instead to Amazon, a company with near-bottomless pockets for content acquisition, a proven track record of video streaming, not to mention its own gigantic server infrastructure. MBA students will be pondering that one for decades.
But it’s not all bad news for Twitter…
No, you’re right -- it’s pretty much all bad news for Twitter. The loss of NFL games comes as the company’s stock price continues to wallow in the 14s, its user growth remains flat (even with all those Trump-supporting troll eggs) and its CEO continues to insist on treating the leadership of an ailing ~$10bn public company as if it’s his personal side-hustle.
(What was Dorsey doing while the NFL deal fell apart? He was in London meeting a florist who uses Square.)
A lot of words have been wasted on this latest disaster and I’m loathe to waste many more. The fact is, the NFL shouldn’t have ever sold its rights to Twitter in the first place and the fact they did says more about Adam Bain’s skills as a salesman than Twitter’s viability as a video platform.
More importantly, the loss or retention of the Twitter deal is entirely irrelevant, as is pretty much any other decision Twitter or Jack Dorsey makes while they continue to allow their company to be used as a platform for hate.
That is the reason Twitter has stalled, that is the reason why brands and celebrities and other high profile users (except for Donald “grab ‘em by the pussy” Trump) are lukewarm on Twitter at best, fleeing for the hills at worse.
I’ve written before about Dorsey’s personal cowardice -- that the only remaining explanation for his refusal to clamp down on Trump’s dangerous and bullying Tweets and those of his highest profile supporters is that Dorsey fears a personal attack from the President.
It seems that, for a guy as conflict averse as Dorsey, it’s preferable to run Twitter into the ground than risk the hatred of a mob. Or to put it another way, Dorsey is fine with women, minorities and even entire religions and nations being abused and threatened on his platform, so long as he doesn’t have to feel the least bit uncomfortable himself.
(Speaking of mobs: The last time I made this point here on Pando, I was swamped with responses from Dorsey’s current and former employees insisting that their boss is “a deeply moral person.” The response was so swift and so-coordinated that I liken it to the “Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.” mantra from the Manchurian Candidate. They only went silent when I asked them to explain the moral calculus behind continuing to enable bigotry: Suddenly those same people couldn’t possibly claim to understand Dorsey’s mind.)
No, whether or not Twitter kept the NFL is interesting and important for only one reason and that’s for its effect on Dorsey’s own position at Twitter. Between the election generally, Trump specifically and a whole host of other “big bets”, 2016 was Dorsey’s chance to prove himself to shareholders, employees and the wider world. The user growth and stock price tells its own story and the NFL loss is leaves him with very few bets left in play.
By any metric you care to use, Dorsey has failed as a (part-time) Twitter CEO. It is long past time for him to resign, or be pushed out.
If this NFL news matters a damn it might be as the thing that finally gets him out the door. Then perhaps -- just perhaps -- the company can find itself a leader who’ll drain the swamp and Make Twitter Great Again.