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The National Football League’s “Thursday Night Football” has returned to Twitch this year with a few familiar faces involved in the broadcast. While Twitch’s top streamer in 2018, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, is no longer streaming on the platform, Tim “TimTheTatman” Betar is once again working with the league to streaming TNF, and Nick “NickMercs” Kolcheff has joined in on the streaming as well.
This season marks the third year for Amazon Prime Video as the live-streaming partner for TNF, and as a part of the company’s deal with the NFL, Twitch has rights to show broadcasts.
In 2018, Blevins, Betar, and a select few other broadcasters worked with the NFL for an opportunity to co-stream broadcasts, and though viewership for the games on Twitch wasn’t comparable to some of esports’ major events on the platform, influencers are again getting a chance to co-stream this year.
As was the case last year, the “PrimeVideo” channel was responsible for a primary broadcast of TNF, and so far this year, the channel has averaged less than 10K concurrent viewers. For comparison, Betar, who is the most-watched of the TNF co-streamers, has averaged 19.8K CCV.
Meanwhile, Kolcheff, who partnered with the NFL for its player draft in April, has averaged 8.22K CCV. The main Twitch channel, which co-streamed the first week of TNF on Twitch right before TwitchCon, averaged 14.4K CCV.
With just two weeks of TNF complete, viewership figures are potentially skewed by the fact that week one of TNF on Twitch happened right before TwitchCon. During that Thursday broadcast, Kolcheff and Betar both co-streamed the same content as the main “Twitch” channel.
Similar to an NFL broadcast, both streamers sat at a broadcast desk from TwitchCon watching the game together. Though the event led to fun and compelling interactions between the streamers involved, the audience for it was limited by the fact that there was only one broadcast.
Compared to last year’s viewership, personality streams are receiving a larger share of TNF viewership on Twitch so far. Though Betar’s average CCV is lower than his 30.5K CCV average for all of last year, his viewership is notably higher than the official “PrimeVideo” broadcasts. The channel’s average of 9.8K CCV represents a decline from 22.75K CCV for TNF streams last year.
The appeal of individual streamers’ channels during TNF is fairly personal. Many people who are fans of the NFL aren’t looking to watch the game on Twitch. The vast majority of NFL fans are still viewing TNF on broadcast TV via Fox or the NFL Network.
The thing that attracts viewers to Twitch for TNF broadcasts is the ability for fans to feel like they’re watching the game with a streamer that they enjoy the company of. Streamers like Betar and Kolcheff are by no means professional football analysts, and it doesn’t take long to realize that when you watch one of their TNF broadcasts.
Fans are watching their TNF streams on Twitch because they want to feel like they’re watching the game with the online community that revolves around influencers like Betar and Kolcheff. It’s less about feeling like you’re watching the game with a professional broadcaster and more about feeling like you’re watching with a close friend.
Early in its existence, co-streaming of TNF games has been fairly limited to just a few influencers who are established and well-known. As the NFL and Amazon look to extend the network of influencers who are allowed to co-stream, it’s important that the parties involved find individuals who can strike a unique balance.
Streamers like Betar and Kolcheff were chosen to stream in part because they embody what Twitch is all about from an influencer perspective and also have natural ties to the NFL because of their love for sports.
TNF on Twitch will likely never reach the grand audience that Fox or the NFL Network does, but what it can do is reach a small group of gaming-endemic individuals who can be enticed to watch football if it’s with friends, or in this case their favorite streamers who happen to like football.
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