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NBA Sees Twitch As a Layup to Reach Young Viewers

The National Basketball Association and USA Basketball Tuesday (Aug. 6) expanded its distribution relationship with Amazon-owned social media service Twitch by making it the exclusive live streaming partner of USA Basketball. 

The eight-year old Twitch platform -- primarily used by video game enthusiasts to chat and compete among themselves -- will exclusively stream 40 hours of USA Basketball content globally, including all USA Men’s National Team exhibition games leading up to the FIBA World Cup in China, which begins Aug. 31. The multi-year deal also calls for Twitch to offer select USA Women’s National Team games and other USA Basketball events, according to the league. 

In addition, Twitch will exclusively stream 150 hours of Jr. NBA Global Championship games, adding to the service’s NBA portfolio of G-League games and NBA 2K League games.

I spoke to NBA Senior Vice President, Global Media Distribution and Business Affairs David Denenberg about the league’s continued relationship with the youth-targeted Twitch platform.

Why did the league feel Twitch was the best platform to exclusively stream USA Basketball and NBA Global Championship content?

We had looked at the properties and wanted to re-imagine them to make sure that we’re reaching not just people who are watching linear TV but streaming as well. We’re excited by it, and it's not just the games -- they will be doing some ancillary content, including the [USA Basketball] three-on-three finals and the Nike Hoop Summit. The nice part of this is we do reserve the ability to do a linear package of these games as well with NBA TV along with Twitch. We really like Twitch’s platform and we think they are really innovative and they reach an important demographic. They are also a worldwide platform so we’re excited that this is offering exposure throughout the world.

What does Twitch bring to the table in terms of technological innovations?

An example of some of the innovation that they do is something called co-streaming, in which the viewers who are watching the stream can add their own commentary and have their friends follow along. We think those are the kind of things that we think are part of the future of telecasts and the kind of things that we’re experimenting with across [NBA] programming. So the combination of the young demographic that they reach and the innovative ways of streaming that they offer makes us very excited about this.

You mentioned the Twitch’s audience demos. Is it a predominantly young male audience that you’re trying to reach through the platform?

It’s a young audience but I wouldn’t limit it to males. In the past they were known for streaming video game content and are still the leaders in that, but they’re looking to branch out beyond what they are doing, so it's a nice fit for what we’re trying to achieve and how they are extending their brand as well.

Will the NBA look to offer more of its content via Twitch in the near future?

Right now we’re here to announce these two deals, and we have two other deals with them so we’re really excited about the relationship we have with Twitch and we look forward to continuing to discuss opportunities with them as they arise, especially given their international nature. We’re also very invested with our current linear partners, but we want to make sure we’re reaching fans wherever they are and wherever they are going to consume content. We’ve seen good results with [Twitch’s streaming of] G-league and 2K league so we would like to continue that momentum with both [USA Basketball] and the Junior NBA.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.