Twitter, in a rare win against larger rivals, emerged victorious with the deal. The N.F.L. saw disadvantages with some of the other bids. Facebook, for example, had set tough terms, under which the social network wanted to sell all the ads that would air during the football games, essentially cutting out the sales relationship between the N.F.L. and marketers, according to two people who asked for anonymity because the discussions were private.
Twitter, in contrast, agreed to pay the N.F.L. around $10 million to stream 10 games and to sell only a portion of the ad inventory exclusively. Twitter, which is based in San Francisco, wanted the Thursday night games because of their popularity; each game drew an average of 13 million viewers last season.
"Having that live programming every night when sports are playing — with no paywall, no logging in and directly from the source — that's key to us," said Anthony Noto, the chief financial officer for Twitter and formerly for the N.F.L., who helped forge the streaming deal.
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When Twitter streams its first N.F.L. game on Sept. 15, it will get to assess whether its vigorous pursuit will pay off — and whether live streaming can viably be a linchpin of its future.
Since April, Twitter has signed a series of live-streaming deals, including with Wimbledon, CBS News, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and Pac-12 Networks. Twitter is also in discussions with other organizations, including Major League Soccer and the Professional Golfers Association, for similar agreements, according to people briefed on the talks.
Facebook declined to comment on the N.F.L. talks. In a statement at the time, the N.F.L. commissioner, Roger Goodell, said Twitter "is where live events unfold and is the right partner." Major League Soccer declined to comment on discussions with Twitter, and the P.G.A. did not respond to requests for comment.
For Twitter, the bet on live streaming is crucial to turning itself into a mainstream internet destination after other efforts have failed. Live streaming could finally broaden Twitter's appeal, attracting an even wider audience. And perhaps more important, live events would be another way to sell video ads. If streaming football or basketball games on Twitter's mobile apps and on desktop computers, along with other platforms, draws viewers, the company could sell more video ads, which typically command a premium.