Live streams of people playing games – from League of Legends and StarCraft II to chaotic crowdsourced play-throughs of old Pokemon games – brought Twitch tens of millions of online viewers and a $1bn acquisition by Amazon.
Now the site is turning its attention to gambling, with live streams of online poker matches. Twitch tells the Wall Street Journal that its move into poker began in November, with some channels already drawing seven-figure audiences.
The report claimed that Twitch streamed 56m minutes of poker in January 2015, although it notes that this is less than 1% of the overall video streamed on the site.
Twitch is ambitious, though: “Like videogames, poker is a game and we’ve grown that into a huge business,” said Scott Ball, who is heading up Twitch’s expansion in this area.
Matches are broadcast with a four-minute delay, because the live-streaming players’ cards are shown to the audience. Without the delay, the people they are playing against would be able to tune in to their Twitch channel too.
Twitch is recruiting professional online poker players to broadcast on their own channels, and could quickly become a rival for the growing television audiences of live poker tournaments on networks such as ESPN.
As an advertising-funded service, Twitch’s latest move looks smart: there is a large potential audience of poker players keen to soak up tips and strategy – just as gamers do from Twitch’s traditional channels – and a number of flush-with-cash online poker services who may be keen to advertise around its live streams.
Twitch already has an audience of 100 million monthly viewers, according to the Wall Street Journal piece. That’s more than double the 45 million viewers it had at the end of 2013. The company was rumoured to be in talks with Google about an acquisition in May 2014, before Amazon swooped in.
Poker is the latest addition to Twitch since Amazon acquired the company in August 2014. The service has also introduced stricter rules on streamers appearing in a state of undress; and launched its own library of “pre-cleared” background music while attracting musicians including Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki.
Twitch is, however, facing new competition in 2015: PC gaming service Steam launched its own live streaming service called Steam Broadcasting in beta in December 2014.
Taken from The Guardian.