Twitch is the leading streaming platform. In 2007 it began as a wild experiment by Justin Kan, Emmet Shear, Michael Seibel, and Kyle Vogt. Seibel is the CEO of Y-Combinator, Vogt went on to found Cruise. Twitch has the coolest origin story of any company I’ve ever heard of. The team wanted to get people to broadcast their lives to massive crowds. As anyone would they strapped a camera to Kan’s head and streamed everything he did. As you can imagine this gave them a lot of buzz and led them to launch justin.tv, a website where anyone could broadcast online. Eventually they spun off the service to include different categories. After some time gaming became the most watched category; allowing the company to spin off twitch.tv into its own gaming focused site.
Twitch and Sports
Twitch gives users the ability to interact with streamers. This creates a cohesive collaborative feel to the games and establishes a connection between creators and viewers. Twitch and sports have a lot in common, both are vying for the attention of their audiences attention.
At this moment, tech companies like twitch are gaining steam because they offer a more interactive and diverse experience. Twitch has a distinct advantage over watching traditional sports. Viewers can contribute to the conversation and choose media that suits them. Since there is more choice and interaction, viewers tend to become invested in certain streams. Nothing like this exists in traditional sports. Unless you’re sitting court side at certain types of events, athletes cannot hear you. They focus on competing rather than interacting. In the online world, this isn’t the case. For example, one streamer decided to try to crowdsource playing a Pokemon game. To do this he built a system that translated comments into on screen actions. Of course an idea as wild as this went crazy, reaching up to 7 million total viewers. Consider that the NBA’s most watched game thus far has had around 7 million viewers.akin to channel flipping.
Sports can take a page from this book. What spectators want is interaction and an understanding of the athlete. With this in mind we see why athlete empowerment has gone a long way with fans. They want to see under the hood and understand the people behind their favorite things. The NBA has built upon this strategy and has seen incredible growth because of it. Their revenue has more than doubled since 2010, in part this comes from the exposure that athletes are given. They are free to speak their minds about social issues and the league will even support them. Instead of seeing athletes only as competitors, we’ve begun to see them as leaders and activists.
What traditional leagues can steal
Until the technologies to broadcast sport evolves to create more immersive viewing experiences, traditional sports will lack the immersive tool twitch has built. Twitch and sport, while not competitors are both playing the attention game. Twitch has set its hooks deep into its consumers; there is are streamers for every type of game and interest. Sports leagues have monopolies over one small section of public interest. The most important aspect leagues could take would be to increase interactivity. One way to do that could be building a curated stream of comments where watchers can see their words appear on a broadcast. Another could be to bring elements of the stadium experience into the streams. For example teams could add graphics onto the screen that change depending on which team you have decided to cheer on.
Overall twitch has done an excellent job of creating a platform that fans can use to interact with their favorite creators. The interaction this provides is shaping the entertainment industry before our eyes.