Twitch is the latest tech company to make a sports play: The Amazon-owned video service, which specializes in video-game broadcasts, has reached a deal with the NBA to stream up to six minor league games per week during the current season.
The NBA G League games will stream live on Twitch beginning Friday, Dec. 15, at twitch.tv/nbagleague. The broadcasts will include interactive statistics overlays, a fan-loyalty program to reward engagement, and a co-streaming option for select Twitch personalities to provide their own live commentary — marking the first time a major sports league has tapped into such features on Twitch.
The G League games will carry in-stream ads and viewers will be able to subscribe to the channel to get special perks, like custom emotes to use in the group chat. After each live broadcast, the games will be available on demand.
“By leveraging fan commentary, new technology and a passionate community, Twitch elevates video in a unique, engaging way that resonates with young viewers,” NBA G League president Malcolm Turner said.
In addition to the main broadcast, the NBA G League games will take advantage of Twitch’s co-streaming feature, which allows a creator to share another channel’s video feed with their own commentary and community. At launch, GoldGlove and more than a dozen other top personalities on Twitch will take part in the G League co-streaming initiative.
The G League broadcasts on Twitch will include two interactive extensions. A stats overlay will let viewers click on a team’s name or logo next to the scoreboard to view player, team, game, and season stats. There also will be a ticker featuring league stats related to other games from around the league. The “loyalty display” will show viewers points they accumulate based on various interactions with the game live-streams; gaining points will let them unlock achievements, climb leaderboards, and eventually earn prizes.
“From Day One, the NBA team got what Twitch is all about,” said Michael Aragon, Twitch’s SVP of content. “From our broadcasters to our engaged community to our interactive product that brings everyone together, collaborating with their team is going to bring a unique experience to basketball fans worldwide.”
For Twitch, which claims 15 million daily active users, the NBA deal is about further extending its platform into arenas beyond video-gameplay broadcasts. Among its content partnerships, Twitch has launched 24-hour channels from Warner Bros.’ Machinima and Cinedigm’s CONtv.
Twitch’s distribution of the NBA G League games is in addition to the minor league matchups broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks and NBA TV.
The NBA G League includes 26 teams with direct affiliations with NBA franchises. Previously known as the NBA Development League (the “D-League”), it was renamed the “Gatorade League” starting with the 2017-18 season under a sponsorship deal with the sports-drink brand.
The NBA has used the 17-year-old minor league as a kind of R&D lab. This season, for example, the league played with four-person referee crews during the month of November, while testing new rules such as a coach’s challenge and a two-minute overtime period.
Pictured above: A mock-up of NBA G League’s live-streaming games on Twitch