Twitch: the new sports arena

30 million worldwide users. Impressive isn't it? Initially adopted by gamers, Twitch is increasingly used by sports actors.

The streaming service Twitch has been beating audience records since its launch in 2011. Initially popular with gamers and fans of video games, it began attracting a wider public, especially during the lockdowns linked to the Covid-19 health crisis. In 3 years, non-gaming communities saw a fourfold increase. 

Since then, the numbers have skyrocketed. Quite simply, Twitch is: 

  • 24 billion hours of videos viewed in 2021
  • An average of over 2.5 million people connected at any time 
  • An average daily audience of 30 million visitors in 230 countries
  • 7 million streamers creating content each month
  • A growth of 151% in sports viewing figures in 2021

But the figures that really should grab your attention are these: about 50 % of the Twitch audience is aged between 18 and 34, and 21 % between 13 and 17

This audience is particularly coveted by the world of sport, which explains the investment of clubs and media in the service. Twitch is also banking on their enthusiasm and has adapted its services. The company has set up a dedicated channel, signed agreements with football clubs and launched the promotional programme “Sports Accelerator” for streamers specialised in sport

Is this the new, essential medium for broadcasting sport? 

As viewing figures for sports competitions such as the French Ligue 1 continue their relentless decline (this issue was discussed in our article, Gen Z and sport), broadcasters and sports organisations need to rethink their model to attract the under 30s. 

Given the choice between free viewing online and the (increasingly high) cost of subscriptions to a whole host of TV channels broadcasting sport, the under 30s have made their decision and left traditional media behind. 

In 2017, the NFL joined forces with Twitch to stream Thursday Night Football. Since then, their partnership has developed on all Amazon services (especially Prime Video). The online retailer bought Twitch in 2014 for the bagatelle of 970 million dollars. On 26 December 2021, the match between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals was exclusively available via streaming on Prime Video and Twitch. It attracted average viewing figures of 4.5 million. 

On the channel, you can now see the world's top sports competitions. The NFL, the NBA, the Premier League, the UFC… and even the Copa America feature on the service. As well as some of the iconic moments in sport, such as Lionel Messi's first match for PSG. The very popular Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos broadcast the match live on his channel to the delight of an average of over 340,000 viewers. As a comparison, 2.2 million people watched the game on the Spanish channel Telecinco (Amazon Prime Video, which has Ligue 1 broadcasting rights did not release its viewing figures).

Interaction to enhance the fan experience 

Twitch's strength is interaction! When the viewer accesses the stream, the platform provides an active experience. Because above and beyond content, the advantage of Twitch is the chat room, accessible to all. A feature that is obviously useful for attracting committed fan communities. 

A complete guide to create your sports community

Between fans and clubs

Two main options are available to institutions and clubs. They can either broadcast matches live on Twitch or use it as a second screen with extra content for the community (highlights, talk-shows). Commentators can react to viewers' questions live 

In football, the French club Olympique de Marseille (OM) broadcast its pre-season matches in summer 2021. With almost unexpected success! Hervé Philippe, head of media for OM, told L'Équipe newspaper: "Each time we had the day's best international viewing figures with a peak of 100,000 viewers during the live match and a total of over 250,000 viewers for each match". Other clubs soon followed suit: Real Madrid, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Arsenal, PSG… 

PSG broadcast highlights from matches on the platform, the players warming up or analyses from the coaching staff. Meanwhile, Real Madrid are offering live commentary of matches and are streaming its women's team matches, as well as legendary archives. 

But going beyond football, Twitch is also good at boosting the visibility of more confidential sports, such as beach-volleyball in Germany and chess. 

Twitch has begun to enhance its services by adding new features, such as the option for clubs and leagues to display statistics in real time. These add-ons enrich the content on offer to the user even more. 

Between fans and players 

Whether they are fans of video games or not, the players are also adopting Twitch to share their passions and daily lives with their fans, in an immersive and live approach.  

With 1.2 million followers, the racing driver Lando Norris is a real success story. He has built a community of super fans through his immersive streams on Twitch. He unveils his training sessions on a simulator and takes fans behind the scenes of Formula 1. 

French athletes Gaël Monfils and Antoine Griezmann, both fans of video games, have also joined in. They stream their games (alone or with team-mates). Antoine Griezmann also uses the service to promote his eSport team or raise money for charity (including the Red Cross in 2020). Monfils, the tennis player, shares discussions with his partners on the ATP circuit, such as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Benoît Paire and Richard Gasquet.

Twitch is a way for the world of sport to connect with fans and broaden its range of content, motivating their community and attracting new, younger supporters. And just as sports institutions and players have taken up the service, so have the media and politicians, always on the lookout for the new generation who have moved away from mainstream media