Twitter Shares Tumble After Q2 Revenue Miss, Weak Outlook for Q3

Social service highlights bet on live-streaming video deals, ad pacts for NFL games

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Courtesy of Twitter

Twitter didn’t allay investor concerns that it’s struggling to grow top-line results: The social-media company’s stock fell more than 11% in after-hours trading after it reported revenue of $602 million for the second quarter of 2016, below Wall Street expectation, while adjusted earnings topped forecasts.

Twitter reported a net loss of $107 million, an improvement over a net loss of $136.6 million in the year-earlier period, and adjusted earnings (excluding stock-­based compensation expense and other items) of 13 cents per share. Analysts had expected Twitter to post revenue of $607 million and adjusted EPS of 10 cents for the period.

Total average monthly active users climbed 3 million for the quarter, to about 313 million. That’s up 3% year-over-year — and slightly more than the Street’s expectations of an increase of about 2 million for Q2 — but far from the blistering growth that Facebook continues to see.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on our priorities this quarter,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who also is the CEO of payment provider Square, said in announcing the results. “We are confident in our product road map, and we are seeing the direct benefit of our recent product changes in increased engagement and usage.”

Still, Twitter said it continues to see less overall advertiser demand than expected, for both the Q2 results and the outlook for the third quarter of 2016. For Q3, the company is forecasting revenue of between $590 million and $610 million, with adjusted earnings to be in the range of $135 million to $150 million. It cited increased competition for social marketing budgets as pressuring sales, as well as the fact that its ads are priced at a premium relative to competitors on a cost-per-engagement basis.

Ad revenue totaled $535 million, up 18% year-over-year, with mobile advertising accounting for 89% of the total. Data licensing and other revenue was $67 million, an increase of 35% year-over-year. The company said Promoted Tweets with video are now its largest revenue-generating ad format and remains the fastest-growing ad format. Average cost per engagement fell 64% year-over-year primarily because of Twitter’s shift to autoplay video, while total ad engagements increased 226% year-over-year.

Twitter, like rival Facebook, has been hungry to add video content to its service — a bid to attract new users, and to keep existing ones coming back and plugged in for longer periods of time than scanning 140-character messages lends itself to. The strategy behind live video, centered around sports, news and politics, also is aimed at tapping into advertisers’ online-video budgets, rather than just drawing from social-marketing dollars.

Over the last several weeks, the company has announced a flurry of TV and video deals, including one with MLB Advanced Media to live-stream weekly games from Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League. The comes after a deal with the NBA for two exclusive live shows (but no live games) on Twitter, while the company secured global rights to stream 10 NFL “Thursday Night Football” games this fall.

Twitter also signed a deal with CBS to live-stream convention coverage from CBSN, and with Bloomberg to stream three daily shows and live markets coverage on the platform.

For the NFL games, Twitter said it has already sold a “meaningful percentage” of the available ad inventory for the upcoming season, signing on marketers including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Nestlé, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Verizon. That spending came from the advertisers’ online-video budgets, Twitter COO Adam Bain said on a call with investors.

CFO Anthony Noto said Twitter has seen “exciting momentum” with the live-streaming video initiatives it has under way. “We’re partnering with the providers of the world’s most popular live content to bring more and more of those events onto Twitter to provide a unique and compelling consumer experience,” he said in prepared remarks.

But Twitter also said its live-streaming experiences are still in early testing, and that it plans to make improvements with a “final product” launching in the fall in time for the NFL games. For now, it remains uncertain if Twitter’s big video push will yield bigger ad bucks — and if users will be flocks to its presentation of live video commingled with live-tweeted commentary.