Twitch is buying into the online poker industry by expanding its live streaming broadcasts of Internet tournaments and events featuring many of the game’s top professionals.
Following its acquisition by Amazon last fall for $970 million, Twitch, whose primary focus has been video games, added poker to its repertoire of content in November and has been successful in gaining an audience. “Like video games, poker is a game and we’ve grown that into a huge business,” Twitch Poker Partnerships exec Scott Ball said.
With more than 100 million monthly viewers, Twitch.tv is one the top 100 websites in the US. Similar to viewers watching video game live streams, poker players can field questions and talk strategy with online audiences during the hand.
With the player discussing his or her approach, novice players and fans can have a front-row seat to the action, albeit on a four-minute delay since the host’s hand is visible to potential opponents.
PokerStars & Jason Somerville Join In
Although poker currently accounts for less than one percent of Twitch content, that will soon rise thanks to PokerStars entering the fray. Last week the world’s largest poker network announced it had signed Jason Somerville to its pro team. The ever-popular host of the webcast “Run It UP,” Somerville will help launch the PokerStars Twitch channel with his program, which saw its season three debut on Sunday.
“Jason is a unique proposition, a poker pioneer who has had great success both online and live, and brings something different to the table through the way in which he has built a popular live streaming poker show,” said Kristy Thompson, head of pro & celebrity marketing. “I’m sure he will be a great ambassador for PokerStars and help to increase the level of interactivity between the brand and its players.”
One can assume the signing of Somerville by PokerStars was due to his large Twitch audience. “Run It UP” routinely attracts audiences in the thousands, and has exceeded 10,000 viewers at a time. Now that he’s the newest PokerStars team pro, he’ll likely attract an even larger fan base, a win-win for both parties.
End of Televised Poker?
The move by Twitch to broadcast poker might signal where the game’s live coverage is heading. With “Poker After Dark” and “High Stakes Poker” distant memories, and ESPN’s World Series of Poker ratings continuing to slide since the boom, many believe poker’s marquee events are better suited for online airings.
The WSOP’s recent decision to end its partnership with PokerNews for media coverage is further proof the times are changing. That’s not to say poker’s glory days are behind us, but simply the evolution of how poker fans digest content.
Somerville’s show will air live for a minimum of four hours each day until May 9th. A marathon of that magnitude from a well-known pro paired with the game’s largest online brand will certainly bring new eyes to Twitch.
In a press release, PokerStars says, “Somerville represents the latest generation of poker pros, raised on American poker television and videogame culture.” With over 3.2 million Twitch views, Somerville might also be leading the next cultural movement in online poker in America.