By Amy Tennery and Jessica Toonkel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twitter Inc attracted an average of 243,000 viewers to Thursday's National Football League livestream of the New York Jets triumph over the Buffalo Bills, the first time the social media platform has broadcast an NFL game.
The event drew mostly praise from Twitter users and media experts have said the NFL deal helps Twitter maintain its position as a venue for live video.
Still, the Twitter audience was only a fraction of the average of 15.7 million people watching across television and digital platforms, according to NFL data of the game, which the Jets won, 37-31.
Twitter’s arrangement with the NFL comes as sports fans increasingly rely on the internet to watch video at the expense of traditional cable and satellite connections.
The microblogging platform has struggled with user growth and advertising competition, and livestreaming the games gives it a new avenue to attract users as it tries to catch up with rivals such as Facebook Inc.
Anheuser-Busch InBev SA <ABI.BR, Ford Motor Co, Bank of America Corp and Verizon Communications were among the brands that ran video ads during the game's livestream.
The deal with the NFL has the potential to reignite brands’ interest in working more with Twitter after it has had a bumpy ride over the past several months, said Victor Pineiro, senior vice president, social media at Big Spaceship, a Brooklyn, New York-based digital ad agency.
“We still see a big role for it,” he said.
For example, there is an opportunity for brands to be part of the conversation around the games through sponsored tweets and other means, said Edithann Ramey, vice president, marketing for Chili's Grill and Bar, a Dallas-based restaurant chain.
"It's very intriguing to us in terms of the number of impression they bring and ways we can jump in and be part of the conversation," Ramey said.
Twitter is the second tech company to livestream an NFL game. In October, Yahoo Inc livestreamed a game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills in London, which attracted an average of 2.36 million viewers, versus the 243,000 in the Twitter game.
About 15.2 million viewers watched at least part of the game on Yahoo, while a total of 2.3 million people tuned into Thursday's game or pregame show on Twitter for at least three seconds, according to the NFL.
The Yahoo game, however, was not broadcast on U.S. TV nationwide and in some cases, the stream automatically started playing on Yahoo websites.
(Reporting By Amy Tennery and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Peter Henderson and Alan Crosby)