Twitter's Video Push Seen Unlikely to Fast-Forward Revenue Growth

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This story originally appeared on Reuters

Video may have killed the radio star, but it could offer a lifeline to Twitter Inc.

Just don't expect a turnaround in the company's flagging fortunes anytime soon, analysts said.

Twitter on Tuesday reported its slowest quarterly revenue growth since going public in 2013 as it managed to increase its user base by just 1 percent from the preceding quarter, sending its shares down 11 percent in premarket trading.

The company has made it clear it sees video as the way ahead. "We have become a video-centric platform. Video is now the number one ad format in terms of revenue on Twitter," Chief Operating Officer Adam Bain said on a conference call.

Twitter faces a tough battle to win market share, though, as it goes up against Alphabet Inc.'s long-established YouTube, Facebook Inc.'s new Facebook Live and Instagram, and social media app Snapchat.

Highlighting its video strategy, Twitter has signed video deals with the National Football League, National Basketball League, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

"Management clearly has gone all out over the last two quarters to aggregate video content and begin to sketch out a business case," Canaccord Genuity analyst Michael Graham said in a note to clients.

Still, he said, "We believe there will be heavy lifting to expand content and go to market for video advertisers, and this is likely to take time."

Canaccord Genuity cut its rating on the stock to "hold" from "buy," and its price target to $16 from $20. The stock was trading at $16.53 before the opening bell on Wednesday.

Window closing

At least eight other brokerages, including Goldman Sachs, cut their price targets on the stock, with Cowen & Co. and Nomura lowering theirs to $13.

Of the analysts covering Twitter's stock, 12 rate it "buy" or higher and 24 "hold," while and six have a "sell" or equivalent rating. The median price target is $16.50.

Doug Anmuth, an analyst at J.P. Morgan Securities, said Twitter had potential to improve growth by tapping into video ad budgets over time but "the window of opportunity is closing as users and budgets move to competitors."

Anmuth cut his price target to $16 from $18.

Pacific Crest analyst Evan Wilson said Twitter's media deals could increase engagement from existing users but were unlikely to draw many new users as the content is available elsewhere.

"There will be revenue tied to these advertising deals, but without big user numbers we doubt it will be significantly accretive," he said in a research note.

Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser, who cut his share price target to $22 from $26, said there was good reason to believe that video initiatives would help re-accelerate growth in the fourth quarter and through 2017.

"However, we are mindful that it's possible that the company may have essentially plateaued and that ad revenue growth or even stability will be increasingly harder to come by," he said.

Nomura's Anthony DiClemente said it was difficult to say how much Twitter would benefit from its deals with the major sports leagues as details of the revenue splits were unclear.

Up to Tuesday's close, Twitter's shares had fallen 20 percent this year.

(Reporting by Tenzin Pema; Additional reporting by Sweta Singh; Editing by Ted Kerr)

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