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Twitch sales VP Steve Ford defines how the community pushed Twitch into TV as Amazon Pilots return

The Legend of Master Legend, Budding Prospects and Oasis / Amazon

Amazon is to test the waters of three new shows on its sister company, social video streaming service Twitch, in a move intent on orientating users with the historically gaming-focused service's blooming TV ambitions.

Pilot episodes of sci-fi Oasis, dramedy The Legend of Master Legend and comedy Budding Prospects, will be streamed in 120-minute blocks for over 24 hours from 5 April, giving the audience a chance to taste the content and provide feedback – in what essentially provides Amazon a real-time focus group of people who in all probabilities enjoy the odd video game every now and then.

Steve Ford, vice president of sales Europe at Twitch told The Drum that while its core audience is gamers, that trait alone does not define them adding that their diverse interests have fueled the platform’s growth. “All of the non-gaming content we’ve introduced can be traced back to things we’ve heard from our users and we will be continuing to look to them to guide us.”

The community’s interests in art and cosplay birthed the site’s Creative category, the South Korean users’ love of Mukbang (an online broadcast in which a host eats large quantities of food while interacting with their audience) that surfaced the Social Eating category and a survey of its top streamers underlined a hunger for a vlogging category, to mention a few.

The next evolution in this growth is its TV strategy, which it underlines will continue to operate independently of Amazon Prime Video: “Our community most visibly embraced this type of content when we launched our Creative category with the Bob Ross marathon. That experience proved that even a soft-spoken painter from the 80s could be transformed into a must-see televised event when a global community is able to interact with each other while collectively viewing it.”

In addition to this, the company recently streamed every episode of the 23 seasons of Power rangers, unofficially tying in with the release of Saban’s Power Rangers movie. Ford said this event “reaffirmed the appeal of interactivity around programmatic TV content”. It has previously ran full runs of Julia Child and Pokemon too, turning old shows with cult followings into event TV.

In regards to televised content, Twitch has welcomed to the world show pilots such as HBO’s Silicon Valley and USA’s Mr Robot – in addition to being a platform where Amazon tests the waters for its own pilots.

Monetising this programming is video advertising, tapping into 10 million daily active users accessing a broad range of clearly defined content, At the moment brands are capable of tapping in via mid and/or pre-roll. Ford reiterated that that while all the gaming brands are advertising with the company in some capacity, it is entertainment that is its largest ad sector.

“Movie studios are working with Twitch across the globe because they recognise we are in the same business - the human entertainment business. But all brands are excited about the opportunity that live broadcasting offers them to communicate with an audience, and with years of experience under our belt, Twitch is in a solid position to lead the thinking in this space.”

On the original content front, Twitch has just announced its producing a mini-documentary called Ironsights putting the Twitch community front and centre, specifically the story of streamer Sara Erlandson, a Wisconsin bar owner who hit it big on the service streaming her playthroughs of the game Big Buck HD.

Ford concluded: “We also take pride in the size and passion of our community and how they have helped cultivate a native emote-driven language in chat that is not easily replicable.”

On the roll out of the Amazon pilots, which will emerge one the Power Rangers run on the Twitch Presents channel runs out of steam, Marcus Graham, director of Twitch Studios, said: “Based on positive community feedback and the impressive viewership numbers of the Amazon Pilots we streamed last year, it made sense to bring more of their shows to Twitch.

“Speaking more broadly, we’ve now witnessed several marathons and single episode experiments involving television content where it has been proven time and again that this form of entertainment combined with the interactive nature of Twitch works. Given what we’ve learned, Amazon Pilots are ideal for airing on our platform for amassing valuable viewer feedback.”

It comes after The Tick and Jean-Claude Van Johnson were streamed back in 2016, launching the Pilots initiative. Earlier in the year, Twitch upped its e-commerce credentials by allowing gamers to purchase titles they've seen streamed onsite - a clear intersection of supply meeting demand.

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John McCarthy

John is an entertainment marketing reporter at The Drum. He writes about the amazing marketing stories coming from the movie, TV, music and video game industries. He's also the hunt for the weirder trends in marketing and advertising.

Fuelled by tea.

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