Young, Fresh, Twitch

Platform on its way to becoming a mainstream medium

With the four-week beach volleyball event “Beach Liga”, the portal became a new domicile for live sports broadcasts in 2020. The interactive possibilities are especially well received by the audience under 35.

If you go to the Wikipedia entry on Twitch, the first thing you read is: “Twitch is an American video live streaming service that focuses on video game live streaming, including broadcasts of esports competitions, in addition to offering music broadcasts, creative content, and “in real life.” This is no longer 100 per cent accurate. Because eleven years after its launch, Twitch is long on its way to becoming a mainstream medium that is becoming increasingly important in the world of sports broadcasting.

Around 30 million people worldwide are active on Twitch every day, almost three quarters of these users are younger than 35, and more than 40 percent are between 16 and 24. This makes the platform attractive for advertising companies – but also for interactive sports broadcasts. At the latest with the four-week beach volleyball event “Beach Liga” during the first pandemic phase in 2020, professional live sport has moved into a new home on Twitch.

“During the Beach League, we reached over 1.5 million different people,” said Alexander Walkenhorst, himself a successful beach volleyball professional and founder of the sports content producer Spontent, looking back on the 30-day event last autumn. However, the success of Twitch is not solely dependent on the reach. “Depending on the length of the stream, ten to 20 percent of the users actively participated in the chat eight to 15 times a day,” said Walkenhorst, emphasising the interaction possibilities on Twitch.

Classic advertising banners are absent from Twitch; instead, partners are integrated into the broadcasts. In addition to subscriptions and the possibility of monetising one’s own streams through advertising, donations are another source of income. At the major beach volleyball events of the recent past alone, donations in the six-figure range were collected and paid out as prize money to the athletes.

“Can be a huge thing for the sports industry”

Twitch manages to do what classic TV broadcasting no longer seems to be able to do in a comparable form: pick up the younger audience and also offer a platform to sports that otherwise fall by the wayside. After the “door opener beach volleyball”, the Volleyball Bundesliga (VBL) decided to be the first professional sports league worldwide to broadcast the 2021/22 men’s season on Twitch. “The strategy has worked out very well at this point in time,” explained VBL Managing Director Daniel Sattler recently in an interim review. By the end of the intermediate round of the VBL season, the league had reached one million unique viewers.

Other sports have long since followed suit and broadcast major events on Twitch – these include the Final Four in hockey, the German Championships in 3×3 basketball or beach handball. “We want to help sports get the media attention they deserve,” says Walkenhorst. “Young sports and leagues that are digitally affine and have young people sitting on the relevant boards will also have better access in the long term.”

And what else is possible with Twitch in the medium term? Walkenhorst: “I expect that at some point everyone will understand how the system works. Twitch can be a huge thing for the sports industry and the way sports are broadcast. But you also have to really get to grips with it to understand what all is possible.”

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