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Game Awards 2016 Turns Down TV for Free Live-Streams on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and More (EXCLUSIVE)

The Game Awards 2016, featuring some of the biggest video-game stars and titles, won’t be on TV — unless you hook up your Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV or Roku to stream the live show.

The Dec. 1 kudocast, hosted at the Microsoft Theater in downtown L.A., will be available via free streaming on a variety of platforms including — for the first time — on Twitter and Facebook Live. In addition, the third annual Game Awards will be the first awards show livestreamed in virtual reality, through a partnership with NextVR. And this year it will be simulcast in China, the world’s largest gaming market, via a partnership with Tencent.

“What’s exciting to me is that it’s a show that is free and clear to be distributed worldwide,” Geoff Keighley, creator, executive producer and host of the Game Awards.

Keighley said TV networks approached him to discuss exclusive U.S. distribution of the Game Awards, including Turner’s TBS, which airs broadcasts of its own eSports league, E-League, formed in partnership with WME-IMG. But Keighley turned down the offers to get the maximum distribution globally on digital platforms. “TV is not where our audience is,”  he said. “We’re 80% millennial, and making it no-friction distribution was important.”

Moreover, he pointed out, TV ratings for awards shows are declining. The 2016 Emmy Awards hit an all-time low, and MTV’s VMAs television audience this year was down 34%.

In addition to Twitter and Facebook, the Game Awards will again be available on Sony’s PlayStation Network, Steam, Twitch, Microsoft’s Xbox Live and YouTube. Snapchat will feature highlights from the show in a Live Story.

The Game Awards does not charge distributors a license fee to carry the feed. Instead, the production sells sponsorships to game publishers that run throughout the show. There’s also “The Game Awards Sale,” which will let viewers on PlayStation Network, Steam and Xbox Live purchase select nominated games at discounted prices.

Details on nominees, world premieres, presenters and musical performances for the Game Awards 2016 will be released in the weeks leading up to the show. In past years, musical guests have included Imagine Dragons, Deadmau5 and Churches, along with celebrities including Kiefer Sutherland and Shaquille O’Neal.

The Game Awards recognize the best games, eSports players and influencers of the year. For 2016, the show is adding a best VR game category. The show’s “digital angel” trophy is designed by Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop. The nominees and winners are selected by voters at 28 gaming and entertainment publications, including Game Informer, IGN and Entertainment Weekly, while fans select some of the winners.

The kudocast is supported by major game publishers and tech companies, with the Game Awards’ advisory board comprising execs from Activision, AMD, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo of America, Rockstar Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Telltale Games, Ubisoft, Valve and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The game companies, however, don’t see the winners ahead of awards night.

Keighley said he put up $1 million to finance the first Game Awards in 2014; he declined to detail the budget for this year’s show but said it’s a multimillion-dollar outlay for the first time. The Game Awards assembles a team of about 75 to produce the show. “Doing this independently is extremely challenging but it gives us flexibility,” Keighley said.

Geoff Keighley on stage at the 2015 Game Awards:

Here are details of how the 2016 Game Awards will be available on different platforms:

  • Twitter: The first live awards show broadcast on the social platform will integrate tweets on breaking news, and the results of Twitter user polls will be integrated into the broadcast.
  • Facebook Live: In addition to streaming the Game Awards for the first time, Facebook is creating a special “Backstage Facebook Live Room” for nominees and digital influencers to go live on their pages and interact with fans in real time.
  • NextVR: The live VR broadcast, available on NextVR’s app, will be shot with 360-degree camera rigs placed throughout the Microsoft Theater, including from a front-row seat. An on-stage robotic camera, specially built for the show, will move around during the broadcast to continually give VR viewers different perspectives on the awards presentations and musical performances.
  • Snapchat: The communications and media service will once again produce a Live Story that curates highlights from the awards.
  • Xbox Live: Users will be able to watch the Game Awards as well as compete against their friends with an interactive overlay that lets them guess the winners in top categories. A real-time leaderboard will track the top Xbox Live players.
  • Twitch: Broadcasters on the platform will be able to “co-stream” the show on their own channels, adding their own live commentary. In addition, for the first time, select Twitch streamers will be allowed to broadcast from inside the Microsoft Theater.
  • Tencent: In China, the Game Awards will air a live localized version of the show on Tencent’s internet platforms, including QQ.com. In addition to watching a live translated version of the show, Chinese viewers can use WeChat, QQ.com, and Tencent News App to vote on a special “Fans Choice Award,” based on nominees selected by Tencent’s gaming editors. The winner of the award will be announced during the live global broadcast.

In the U.S., fans can also attend the awards show in person at L.A.’s Microsoft Theater: Tickets are available for $25 and $35 (plus service fees) through AXS.com.

The Game Awards 2016 is executive produced by Geoff Keighley and Kimmie H. Kim. LeRoy Bennett is creative director and Ryan Polito is director.

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