With X now describing itself as a “video first” platform, the Elon Musk-owned app is also looking to make a bigger push into original content, with the platform today announcing new, exclusive content deals with TV identities Don Lemon, Tulsi Gabbard, and Jim Rome.
Each will air their own shows in the app:
- “The Don Lemon Show” will air 30-min episodes three times a week, covering politics, culture, sports and entertainment.
- Tulsi Gabbard will create an exclusive series of documentary-style videos related to politics, as well as “broader content on X”.
- Jim Rome will air a new sports-focused show in the app, five times a week, beginning after the Super Bowl. It’s the first of a new content deal with Range Media Partners, which will likely see more celebrity-led content brought to the app in future.
The new content deals build on X’s exclusive arrangement with Paris Hilton, which it announced last October, though more recently, Hilton’s company has scaled back its X ad spend, which may have soured her relationship with Musk and Co.
X also signed a content deal with controversial journalist Tucker Carlson last May, which has seen Carlson create a range of exclusive shows for the app. The performance of that content has varied, but Carlson continues to bring big audiences to the app, with millions tuning in to his interviews with left-of-center identities.
Though Carlson may also be wearing out his welcome, by creating his own, competing subscription streaming service.
As such, X needs new stars to promote, as it works to get more people consuming more video content in the app.
As noted, video is now X’s main focus, and it’s seemingly targeting popular, controversial figures, under its new “freedom of speech” based approach, in order to ramp up that engagement, and set a foundation for its video future.
Indeed, X owner Elon Musk says that the new contributors will not be beholden to any “editorial gestapo”, giving them free rein to say whatever they want, and amplify it to millions of people via the app.
Which in an election year, is likely going to pose some challenges, especially when you also factor in the past controversies related to these new contributors.
But Musk is convinced that X can re-shape the media landscape, and inject new perspective into relevant debates, by providing a platform for alternative viewpoints, which may not get the air time on “mainstream” outlets.
Will that work?
Well, it’s impossible to predict as yet, but similar efforts in the past haven’t boded so well for the app on this front.
When the platform was known as Twitter, it also tried several times to develop and produce its own exclusive video content, in the hopes that it would then give Twitter more control over audience engagement, by merging TV viewing with related discussion within a single app.
Back in 2016, for example, Twitter signed exclusive contracts with the MLB, NFL and NBA to broadcast games directly in the app, as part of a larger effort to connect the rise in live TV tweeting with the source material. Twitter also came up with several concepts for a combined viewing/tweeting experience.
In 2017, Twitter expanded its live content deals to a range of more niche sports, in the hopes that it could become a crucial connector for fans across smaller leagues and events, as opposed to paying big dollars for the major leagues.
Conceptually, that could have made Twitter the go-to app for a broad range of sports fandoms, and facilitate a sort of grassroots evolution of its related coverage. But it never happened, and all of these deals eventually ran out and were not renewed.
Twitter had maintained various partnerships with providers like E! News, Conde Nast, the WNBA, and more up till 2022, but it’s unclear where each stands under the app’s new approach.
Essentially, Twitter had tried various avenues to make exclusive video content a bigger lure in the app. But for varying reason, it does seem like most viewers have preferred to keep their content consumption behaviors separate.
But maybe now, in the age of social platforms increasingly becoming entertainment hubs in themselves, things will be different.
With more people now watching video content on TikTok, YouTube, and IG as an alternative to traditional TV, as opposed to a supplementary element, maybe, with the right shows, X can now make this a reality, and bring more people into its new video transformation.
And while these commentators are all within their own niches, if X can better align their fans to the app, that could be a stepping stone to a bigger shift.
Again, the evidence isn’t in X’s favor, and it’s also worth noting that viewership for Tucker Carlson’s show has declined over time. But consumption habits are changing, and maybe now, X can make a bigger push, while it also looks to branch into game-streaming, live-streaming, and more.
Really, these new shows will be a significant test case for X. If the platform can bring in millions of viewers, and ensure that these creators get paid, then others will definitely be paying attention.
And with the app also willing to give a platform to non-mainstream viewpoints, there will be a lot of interest, from creators with big audiences, if it works out.
Which could also, eventually, provide more opportunities for advertisers to reach big audiences via video ads in the app.